~ In Memory... ~
To live in the hearts
we leave behind is not to die.
...Of Those Who Have Been Lost to Death
The Journey of Hearts™
website would never have been created without the losses (primarily through
death) of several special friends, family members, mentors and patients
in relatively rapid succession from 1995 - 1997—Sheri, Maggie, Celia, Henry,
Sandy and Karl. These people were some of my earliest and greatest teachers
about the experience of loss and the subsequent grief process. Their deaths
served as the motivation and provided me with the background necessary
for creating this unique website that has helped so many. The website is
a very powerful memorial and tribute to those whose deaths have significantly
affected my life. Many of the poetry tributes
shared on this site have been inspired by patients or friends who have
Some of the influences are famous. The site was
started following the deaths of Princess Diana and Mother Teresa—now almost
5 years ago—in response to the overwhelming world-wide grief response.
This great grief response was also seen following the death of John F.
Kennedy Jr. his wife and sister-in-law, and following the death of rising star Aliah.
Most recently we witnessed the nation-wide and world-wide grief response following the September 11, 2001 Tragedy
and at the end of 2001 after losing another Beatle, George Harrison. Other
deaths that have impacted me over the years include the deaths of Leo Buscaglia,
John Denver, Phil Hartman, Linda McCartney, Erma Bombeck, Anne Morrow Lindbergh and the now more distant deaths of John Lennon, Harry
Chapin, Gilda Radner, Karen Carpenter and John Belushi.
So often it is the unexpected deaths, those who
have died too young, or died tragically or preventably, that really hit home and make you take a look at your
life. The suddent unexpected deaths of two family friends, who were only
in their 40's when they died—Jeff Willick and Stephen Smith—along with
the recent unexpected NICU admission of my second daughter, remind me to
be sure to "live for the moment, because you never know how long any of
us may have."
We say that the
hour of death cannot be forcast,
but when we say this
we imagine that hour as place in an obscure and distant future.
It never occurs to us
that it has any connection with the day already begun
or that death could arrive
this same afternoon,
this afternoon which
is so certain and which has every hour filled in advance.
Added to the list of personal losses are two
who have died from cancer—who have shown those around them how to die.
Robert Lertorra, my sister's father-in-law lives on in the article "Caring
For The Person, Not Just The Patient In End-of-Life Care" and who's
death will continue to be a teaching case for how not to treat patients
in end-of-life care. Also most recently the death of a dear family friend,
Jon Hagstrom, who opted not to die but to live life to the fullest.
This site is also in memory of the patients that
I have lost over the years of medical school, residency and in practice
that are too numerous to mention. From these patients I have learned more
about life by helping them live up until their death. I have also learned
the importance of caring for their families by helping the survivors to
carry on. These special patients taught me about caring for the person
at the "end-of-life" long before it became a topic of formal medical education.
Remembrance service that I created at the end of my Residency Training
in 1996 is on the original version of the site, along with the list of
patients that we remembered during the service.
To live is to
to survive is to find
some meaning in the suffering.
...Of Natural Disasters
Within the 5 years Journey of Hearts™
has been on the Internet, there have been hundreds of natural disasters—floods,
tornadoes, earthquakes and fires—and the unexpected tragedies—plane, train
and car crashes, boating accidents. The summer of 2002 will undoubtedly
go on record as being one of the worst fire seasons ever.
...Of Tragedies Beyond the Imagination
There are also those tragedies that occur that
are so atrocious and incomprehensible, we are left struggling to make sense
of the insensible and how there can be such cruelty. Some of these events
include the Oklahoma Bombing, Columbine, and the September 11th events.
Thousands were killed and displaced in Kosovo and most recently in Afghanistan.
On a smaller scale there are the senseless crimes one close to home is
now going to trial—the senseless murder of three women and later a fourth
near Yosemite in 1999.
...Of My Grandparents
To Vilho and Bertha Koskelo, who taught me the
meaning of Hospice and caring, at a very early age. These early imprintings
taught me the importance of family and how much being at home surrounded
by loved ones can help in alleviating pain and suffering with terminal
To Carl Dyer, gone from Cardiac problems long
before I entered the planet. His death keeps me counseling patients about
high Cholesterol diets and enforcing Tetanus vaccinations.
To Mildred Dyer, lost to us from Alzheimer's
disease, who taught me the meaning of being happy in just the moment. Finally
lost to death in December 1998, my last remaining grandparent.
Life is a tragic mystery.
...Of Past Losses and Those Yet to Come
Every few years, since the death of Princess
Diana and Mother Teresa other tragedies have occurred to underscore the
importance of maintaining the site to provide education on grief and loss.
In 1999 it was the tragic shootings in Columbine and then the unexpected
deaths of John F. Kennedy Jr., his wife and sister-in-law. In 2001 the
tragic events of September 11. In 2002 thus far there have been two kidnappings
and murders of young children in California.
A sudden, accidental, unexpected or traumatic
death shatters the world as we know it. It is often a loss that does not
make sense. We realize that life is not always fair and that no matter
how much we try and take precautions—sometimes bad things still happen
to good people. We may never understand why tragedies happen, instead are
left with the realization that at times "Life is a tragic mystery."
These events leave us questioning "Why?" yet it
may be difficult if not impossible to ever find an answer. Instead we must
come to recognize that these sudden, unexplainable losses were beyond anyone's
control. As Rabbi Earl Grollman explains "There is no satisfactory response
for an unresolvable dilemma. Not all questions have complete answers. Unanswered
"Why's" are part of life. The search may continue but the real question
might be 'How [do I] pick up the pieces and go on living as meaningful
One of my personal responses to these deaths and
tragic events, a way for me to make sense of it, has been the strengthened
commitment to continutine educating both colleagues and the public about
the normal response to loss—grief.
All of these losses serve to reinforced the timeliness
and relevance of the materials, resources, education and support provided
on the Journey of Hearts™
website. It is in memory of all those who have died or been lost, for those
who are trying to cope with losses from their past and those who will need
to cope with losses in the future that this site continues.
I know for certain
that we never lose the people we love, even to death. They continue to
participate in every act, thought and decision we make. Their love leaves
an indelible imprint in our memories. We find comfort in knowing that our
lives have been enriched by having shared their love.
See the Emergency
911 Page for links to immediate resources
if you are feeling helpless,
hopeless, overwhelmingly depressed, or suicidal.
| A Healing Place
| Loss & Grief
| Emergency Pick-Me-Ups
| Condolence & Sympathy
| Transitional Medicine
| Butterflies & Blazes
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