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Death should be what takes us, not lack of imagination

June 8 was the 10th anniversary of Hospice Unique Boutique and the first anniversary of Celia’s Hospice House in Medford.

Seventeen years ago, when my husband and I moved to Ashland, we met many friends who like us had moved to Southern Oregon. Most of us came here without extended families. This made me wonder who would care for these people in their final days when they are unable to care for themselves.

The year before our move, I completed a year-long hospice training. In it nurses, doctors, social workers and chaplains learned to be end-of-life counselors. During the training I worked in Northern California as a hospice nurse. At our weekend training sessions we gathered at the San Francisco Zen Hospice House. The focus of the care we learned about was not based on cure but quality of care.

Through my studies I learned that 80% of Americans wish to die at home, but in Oregon only 36% actually are able to die at home. What we needed was a home-like environment where compassionate care can be given at the end of life.

Over time I met friends through my church and Ashland Community Hospital, and many of us had lost loved ones and were sad about the quality of care they received in their final days. These experiences called us to educate our community about end-of-life issues and wishes. This happened through COHO - Choosing Options, Honoring Options.

Because we wanted to raise funds, several of us took short trips to California; Yreka, Grass Valley, Napa. Each town had a small boutique-resale shop that supported their local hospice house.

After those visits we all agreed that we needed to open Hospice Unique Boutique, with the long-term goal to raise money toward a hospice house to serve Jackson and Josephine counties.

Our group sent out appeal letters and began raising money. We also hosted a parking lot sale on a scorching July day in 2008. Between the letters and the sale, we raised $6,000.

Ashland Community Hospital was very supportive. A business plan was written and an application made for nonprofit status. We rented the old Miller paint store at 1618 Ashland St., hired our first manager and began to train 50 volunteers for the shop. Southern Oregon Friends of Hospice board of directors in April 2009 board voted to open the boutique, and the rest is history.

Sarah Seybold RN, MSN, is an honorary board member and bedside volunteer Celia’s House in Medford.


How Celia’s helped my family

By Sally McKirgan

On Feb. 1, my husband entered Celia’s Hospice House after a long illness. He had been at Ashland Community Hospital the week prior with end-of-life issues. It was clear that the time for hospice had arrived, something I had always dreaded.

I knew having hospice at home would be difficult because his illness was complicated and he required care that I did not feel qualified to give. At Celia’s he was cared for in the most loving ways, and so was I and all my family members including two busy grandchildren.

His large bedroom and bath on the second floor looked out on a beautiful pool, gardens, lawns and then to the blue-green hills and mountains west of Medford.

Celia’s is the stately former residence of the Harry & David family, a Georgian-style 5,500-square-foot mansion in Holmes Park. It seems like a little piece of paradise before you even get there. I could have spent the night in a comfy chair but never had to worry that he would be upset or not comforted if I were not. Besides the qualified staff, chaplains were available and the hospice nurse was close by. Snacks, coffee and tea were always provided, and other meals as well.

He was there less than a week. His transition was serene, and while very sad, it was tranquil and compassionate. The staff offers a quiet ceremony with flowers, a song and candles if the family wishes. I still have grief, and I’m not sure when it will end, but I am sure it would be worse if his death had been a struggle with stresses at home rather than the comforting care and peace that surrounded us both at Celia’s.

We all will make this transition at some point, and maybe help someone as they go through the process. Death is part of life, so if we can be relaxed enough to embrace it as it happens, we can see it as a sweet natural part of living — loving someone and letting them go in peace.

Sally McKirgan edits the Inner Peace column. Send her 600- to 700-word articles on all aspects of inner peace to innerpeaceforyou@outlook.com.