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Spiritual Care: An Important Part of the Journey for Many Hospice Patients and Families

Kinsley Lewis-Cobb, Spiritual Care Coordinator for Heartland Hospice serving Raleigh-Durham, shares her thoughts on what it means to be a Spiritual Care Coordinator and tells a wonderful story about how spiritual care provided comfort for a recent patient’s family.

“It is wonderful when you find an opportunity to do something you love; for me, that is chaplaincy. To be a stranger invited to meet a family at the end stages of a loved one’s life, which is such a vulnerable space and time, is humbling to me.

I was invited by the family of Eloise Stewart to be her Chaplain. When I first met Ms. Stewart and her family, she was imminent. Ms. Stewart was bedbound, not very responsive and she slept during my visits. I read scriptures to her and prayed with her. During this time, I got to know her daughter, Donna, very well. She was her mother’s primary caregiver and I spent most of my visits listening and engaging in conversation with her. Sadly, Ms. Stewart passed away after a month of receiving hospice care. When Donna asked if I could speak at her mother’s funeral, I was delighted. She shared several stories that were touching and showed she had wonderful memories of her mother.

 When I speak about the life of an individual at their funeral service, I try to find something that is simple, yet meaningful, to share. Donna shared a story of her mother growing up during the Great Depression. She always said, ‘It starts with a penny.’ Every time she found a penny, she picked it up and made a funny comment about it. Ms. Stewart’s daughters, Debbie, Donna and Denise, fondly recalled these moments with their mom. Because of this, I gave each of her daughters a penny in remembrance of their mother.

While speaking at her funeral, my final words about their mother, were, ‘Mrs. Eloise V. Stewart lived an extraordinary life. She came from humble beginnings in Erwin, North Carolina. She grew up during the time of the Great Depression; a time when our country was at its lowest. I believe because of those humble times she found value in the simple things in life; like a lost penny. Some may even think a single penny left alone is insignificant and has very little value, but a single penny collected with other pennies has great impact if nurtured, respected and loved.’

A week later, I received a wonderful message from Donna:

‘Hi, Kinsley. Thank you so much for performing Mom’s funeral service. Just on the little I told you, you certainly captured her character. The pennies you gave us mean so much because we know what a penny meant to our mother. In fact, we appreciate it so much, we are having necklaces made with them. Thank you for giving us something in memory of Mom. Some might think it is odd to cherish a penny, but Mom worked so hard her entire life and always said it started with a penny! It was wonderful spending time with you and we wish you well, always. Thank you!’”