Letters of Love

Last month I read a sad but wonderfully uplifting and poignant story in The Washington Post about a mom who was dying.  This particular mom wrote letters to her four children to be read throughout their lives, long after her death.  As we all know, talking about death and grief and loss is challenging.  Articles like these help, I believe.  Maybe it will speak to you as it did to me.  I commend the author of the story, and most especially this amazing mom.


Our Saints and Thin Places

Today is All Saints’ Day, a time we especially remember those who have gone before us, as we do on so many ordinary days as well. Today I am thinking profoundly of my mother-in-law who died recently after a wonderfully long life of nearly 100 years. I am also thinking of a nephew, who died way too soon at age 52. And I am thinking of so many others, including my own parents. How I miss them all!!

Author and minister Jan Richardson writes about thin places, where earth and heaven meet. May we all have many, many thin places in our lives on All Saints’ Day and every day.



Boston Globe article affirming the importance of end-of-life dialogues with our healthcare professionals

Recently I read an article in the Boston Globe entitled Doctors want to talk about end-of-life care, but often don’t know how, survey finds. Below is a link to the article in case you are interested. This article reaffirms the ongoing need to continue to educate, and talk with, our healthcare professionals about tough situations like end-of-life care and our desires and wishes.

Blessings, Melody


Regrets? Hopefully not.

One of my dearest, long-time friends and former college roommates shared the following article with me over the holidays. It deals with end-of-life regrets. Hopefully the start of a New Year is a great time to reflect on these regrets and more importantly, how not to have them in our own lives.

Happy New Year and Happy Fullness of Living in 2014 and beyond,


Nurse reveals the top 5 regrets people make on their deathbed

By Sina Anvari | November 11, 2013

Nurse reveals the top 5 regrets people make on their deathbed

For many years I worked in palliative care. My patients were those who had gone home to die. Some incredibly special times were shared. I was with them for the last three to twelve weeks of their lives. People grow a lot when they are faced with their own mortality.

I learnt never to underestimate someone’s capacity for growth. Some changes were phenomenal. Each experienced a variety of emotions, as expected, denial, fear, anger, remorse, more denial and eventually acceptance. Every single patient found their peace before they departed though, every one of them.

When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently, common themes surfaced again and again. Here are the most common five:

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
This was the most common regret of all. When people realize that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honored even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made.

It is very important to try and honor at least some of your dreams along the way. From the moment that you lose your health, it is too late. Health brings a freedom very few realize, until they no longer have it.

2. I wish I didn’t work so hard.
This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship. Women also spoke of this regret. But as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.

By simplifying your lifestyle and making conscious choices along the way, it is possible to not need the income that you think you do. And by creating more space in your life, you become happier and more open to new opportunities, ones more suited to your new lifestyle.

3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.

We cannot control the reactions of others. However, although people may initially react when you change the way you are by speaking honestly, in the end it raises the relationship to a whole new and healthier level. Either that or it releases the unhealthy relationship from your life. Either way; you win.

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
Often they would not truly realize the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying.

It is common for anyone in a busy lifestyle to let friendships slip. But when you are faced with your approaching death, the physical details of life fall away. People do want to get their financial affairs in order if possible. But it is not money or status that holds the true importance for them. They want to get things in order more for the benefit of those they love. Usually though, they are too ill and weary to ever manage this task. It is all comes down to love and relationships in the end. That is all that remains in the final weeks, love and relationships.

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realize until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called ‘comfort’ of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content. When deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again. When you are on your deathbed, what others think of you is a long way from your mind. How wonderful to be able to let go and smile again, long before you are dying.

Life is a choice. It is YOUR life. Choose consciously, choose wisely, choose honestly. Choose happiness

Remembering, and learning from, Matt

One of my friends and colleagues on the My Healing Place Board has put together a terrific blog in honor/memory of her son, Matt, who unfortunately took his own life.  Check out this wonderful blog at: www.livingwiththelossofachild.blogspot.com.  I highly recommend Janie’s blog for everyone given that we all walk through the shadow of loss, grief and trauma, at different times in our lives, and in many different ways.


Remembering …

Today is the 11th year anniversary of the death Irma Jeanne Chatelle, my beloved mother who died on November 30th at approximately 7 pm at her home in New Braunfels, Texas.  Although her death was expected, the timing was unusual to me in that Mom died a full two months after a day in August when we were told to ‘send for the family, she will not live beyond today’.  In those two months, she spent time with her precious grand-daughters and family, and perhaps did a lot of mental processing and preparing for her journey from this earthly life.  On that particular evening 11 years ago, shortly after my father slipped out of the house to take a much-needed walk around the block, my mother took her last breath, with me sitting beside her, holding her hand.  I think she did not want to die in front of my father.  How I wish I knew more for certain as to what was going on in her head.

This I do know for certain: I am blessed to have had her, and always have her, as my Mom.  For all those who’ve gone on before us, I am grateful on this post-thanksgiving week.  Melody

The Extraordinary Oscar!

Books on end-of-life times are not always plentiful nor good.  That’s not the case with a book I recently had the pleasure of reading entitled Making Rounds with Oscar: The Extraordinary Gift of an Ordinary Cat by David Dosa, M.D.  The book is just like the title suggests: extraordinary, and I recommend it to all!

Happy summertime reading,


Williamson County Hospice Services – A New Resource

Central Texas, where I live, is blessed with tremendous hospice organizations providing a variety of services.  In previous blogs I have repeatedly mentioned the privilege I have of volunteering for Hospice Austin which, among many other types of care, operates a 15-bed residential hospice care center called Christopher House, one of the greatest places I’ve ever seen for end-of-life care.

Just recently the Austin American Statesman and the Round Rock Leader, newspapers for Central Texas, announced a second in-patient center for hospice services located in Round Rock, Texas called Lighthouse Hospice at Altenheim, located at 100 N. College Street in Round Rock.  Featuring 12 private suites with flat-screen televisions, family accommodations, Wi-Fi, and Texas Hill Country decor, Lighthouse Hospice at Altenheim offers patients a temporary medical home where they can get help with pain issues and symptom stabilization before moving back home or to alternative care settings.  When possible, I look forward to seeing the Lighthouse Hospice at Altenheim for myself.

If you are in the Central Texas area or need residential services for loved ones who are, I would encourage you to check out these centers.  We are blessed to have them in our midst.  Melody

New Alliance Launched To Address Urgent Palliative Care Needs

Just recently the Worldwide Palliative Care Alliance (WPCA) launched a new global action network designed to focus exclusively on hospice and palliative care development worldwide. The full press announcement can be found here .

More than 100 million people and their families worldwide need palliative care and support each year; however, it is estimated that only seven percent actually receive it, according to the release.

Dr. Cynthia Goh, co-chair of the WPCA, from the Asia Pacific Hospice Palliative Care Network, noted, “Only 15 percent of the world’s countries have hospice and palliative care that is integrated with general health care, so the formation of the WPCA is tremendously positive step forward in helping to meet an overwhelming need.”

The Web site for the newly formed group is here.