Monday, November 23, 2015

Reflections on the National Institute for Jewish Hospice Annual Conference

For the last four years I have had the privilege to attend this vital conference. This year’s conference was wonderful for two reasons: the content of the program and the fellowship with other conferees. I was particularly inspired by the presentation by David Kessler. His topic was “How Judaism Heals Grief: How do we heal grief? What works and what doesn’t?” Kessler has five best-selling books on grief and is an experienced hospice bereavement expert. What struck me most about him was the fact that he is an excellent communicator whose humility makes his presentation extremely compelling. Kessler posed the provocative question, “Are we destined to die as failures?” Think about it. What is said about patients who died of cancer: “It’s sad she lost her battle with cancer.” “It’s sad he/she lost …” Is that the language we as hospice spiritual care providers want to perpetuate about our patients? Let’s change the language from “she was a great painter/a stellar actress/a fantastic friend”, to “she IS a great painter/a stellar actress/a fantastic friend”. Let’s keep the present tense when talking about patients. They are not a “was” until they die. There was so much more Kessler had to say… For more information, please go to his website, Rabbi Young spoke with passion and energy as he presented “From Dying Until Burial”. No one should die alone was made crystal clear. That is one of the goals at Cornerstone Hospice. Humility is the value most important to a funeral. The casket is made of wood. The wealthy and the poor are buried in the same type of casket. The money not spent on the funeral may be given to a worthy charity that helps the poor. The fellowship around the lunch table was particularly energizing. Hearing from Rabbi’s, Chaplains, and hospice administrators dealing with such topics as Medicare requirements/reimbursements, programs for and methods of care for patients, and other things hospice made the conversation instructive and inspirational. Of the four annual conferences that I’ve attended, this one was the best. I want to thank the leadership of Cornerstone Hospice and Palliative Care, Inc. for making it possible for me to attend. By making this possible we remain an “Accredited Jewish Hospice.” This sends a strong message to our Jewish patients, their families, and the Jewish community as a whole.

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