Every year on November 1, the Pittsburgh Compline Choir hosts the annual Pittsburgh-wide Ecumenical All Saints Day service. All Saints is a tradition affiliated with the Christian calendar as a day for all people to gather as a community and remember their beloved dead.
One purpose of the service is to offer the wider Pittsburgh community an opportunity to experience ancient music in the context for which it was written, surrounded by the glass and stone of Heinz Chapel. The setting sometimes seems strange to those accustomed to saying for themselves the words and singing songs that the choir speaks and sings throughout the service. Yet, all are invited to recognize that the choir’s voices are raised on their behalf, providing a reflective space to hear and pray old words in new ways, also while also deepening a sense of appreciation for both the local architecture and music.
The second, more important purpose of the All Saints service is to offer the region an opportunity to gather and remember loved ones who have died. Death and accompanying grief have been all but dismissed from communal mourning. The bodies of our beloved are no longer mourned from the familiar spaces of a living room or sanctuary. Subsequent tears and grief are not often comfortably received at the office, in class, or out to dinner. In these ways, grief and loss are frequently hidden. Chances are, someone you loved dearly has died. Your beloved dead has gone to the grave, and yet have you found comfort? Have you found confidence to speak the names of those who have gone before you with faith and a spirit of hope? While placed in the context of an ancient religious setting, this is a service designed to help anyone of any faith background, creed, tradition, or practice to come and lift up griefs together without barriers.
The third purpose of the service is to provide support and awareness of regionally based hospice and palliative care. Each year any money collected benefits area hospice groups, explicitly connecting those who grieve with those who care for the dying and the bereaved. The truth is, community outreach is vital to mission and ongoing work of hospice organizations. The philosophy behind hospice care recognizes that there will always be circumstances of death to contend with, but that death and accompanying grief is more manageable with community support, care, and input. In short, community outreach is an integral part of hospice care.
Care From the Inside-Out
Hospice is designed specifically and foremost to serve the needs of people in the community. There’s not one person who will make it out of life alive, so it is a gift and imperative that people and organizations exist in our communities to shepherd us through the difficulties and experience of death.
Hospice organizations reach out to the community in a number of ways in order for services to be known, understood, and utilized. The modern hospice movement come out of ancient monastic practices that combined religious care with health care and service (note that the word hospice shares the same root word as hospitality). Monks didn’t only pray for the dying separated in the privacy of their cloisters. Rather, monks went public with their care of the dying by holding hands, wiping brows, providing nourishment, and keeping vigil beside those who were suffering and breathing their last. Furthermore, monks continued to provide care for those left behind in the aftermath of grief. Hospice is organized around the monastic belief that no one should suffer death alone.
Hospice wants the community to understand that helping others to manage the process of death and dying is more of a call to great service than it is ever a business operation. Hospice organizations reach into the local communities through advertising, word of mouth recommendations, and in cooperation with other health care providers to be sure those who are facing end-of-life and their loved ones never have to manage the situation alone.
Hospice operates according to a philosophy of:
Effective Symptom Management
Those enrolled in hospice care have access to frequent communication with a team of caretakers interested in relieving their pain and discomfort with available medications and technology. There also ways to relieve pain without medication. Hospice believes that modern medicine is beneficial and useful, but also that it does not only have to be used for curative purposes to be used well. Medicine can and should be used for the sake of compassionately alleviating suffering through the last season of life, and hospice compassionately helps with effective pain management during end-of-life.
Anyone at any life stage has a sense of purpose and goals they may seek to achieve. That may include participating in an upcoming family event, travel to a special or exotic place, completing a hobby or work-related project, or simply to have additional time with special people. Hospice works intentionally with patients and their families to articulate those goals find ways for patients to achieve those expressed wishes.
Planning for Death and Beyond
Death marks the end of a person’s life, but it does not end acknowledgement that the person lived and was loved. Hospice teams assist the dying and their loved ones to prepare memorials or other funeral arrangements and accompany everyone through the grieving process. Bereavement care is usually offered to those who have engaged hospice care to walk with a loved one through the shadow of death. For more information on this please read our blog, Hospice —Incorporating and Caring for Families.
Hospice organizations seek to ensure individuals and entire communities know that these services are available to benefit every person, regardless of race, creed, sexual orientation, demography, religion, socio-economic status, etc.
From the Outside-In
Hospice also thrives on community service that reaches in to help with patient care. After all, the entire philosophy of hospice care puts an emphasis on community engagement.
Hospice is always glad to receive volunteers and is happy to train newcomers! Hospice volunteers are people who may interact with patients, providing forms of care such as hand-holding or bringing some desired ice chips. They may also engage with patient’s family members and others by directing them toward resources or bringing them the things needed to stay focused on their loved one. Hospice care centers also thrive on those who are willing to help with basic community needs, ranging from laundry collection, to food distribution, grounds maintenance, and bulletin board decoration!
Activity Organizers and Leaders
People from the community bring all sorts of gifts and abilities to hospice. If you are an artist, musician, yoga expert, teacher, travel aficionado, and more, then you probably have something needed for patients and their families in hospice care. Keeping your talents in mind, hospice can help patients to achieve many of their last goals and wishes through community connections. Furthermore, community members may have special talents that serve therapeutic purposes for people experiencing death or grief.
Do you know a physician, nurse, therapist, social worker, or spiritual care provider that may provide exceptional professional support to the hospice community? Help make the connection! Hospice is only ever as good as the community that serves, and the more high quality, compassionate, team-oriented care providers that become involved with the hospice philosophy — the better the care hospice can provide patients and their families in the last season of life.
Money can be a touchy subject, yet the reality is that contributions help pay for things like a highly qualified and caring staff, facility maintenance, ongoing programs, resources ranging from information booklets to snacks on a cart for the families accompanying their loved ones through the active phases of dying, and more. A community willing to offer financial support to local hospice organizations is a community personally invested in the ongoing care of the dying and their families.
Contact Harbor Light Hospice Today!
Community outreach for hospice care organizations are always working from the inside-out and from the outside-in. Building awareness and support for hospice results in high-quality care for all people in the community, since death and dying is an experience that all will have in life at some point. With ample community engagement, hospice simply makes the experience more graceful and manageable. For more information about the importance of community outreach to hospice care organizations and those they serve, please contact Harbor Light Hospice by giving us a call or by sending us a message online.