Some moments we share with special people along the road of life are utterly unforgettable. When hospice patient, Dawn, was admitted to Rainbow Hospice and Palliative Care, the path of her life started to change. Dawn was not a religious person, but one who had a deep sense of being spiritual. Strong and independent, she was able to care for herself in her home for most of her illness. She had deep grief from losing her son-in-law to the very same cancer she was battling. There were other losses Dawn experienced that also caused her great pain. In the midst of facing these challenges, Dawn allowed the Rainbow Hospice team to accompany her along her journey.
Rainbow Chaplain Jennifer Bradshaw met with Dawn a few times every month. Dawn would share her frustrations and struggles with brutal honesty. It was this honesty that brought the two closer together. As Dawn continued to share her raw emotions, it gave Jennifer a chance to connect more deeply. Jennifer was helping Dawn prepare for the inevitable as much as she could and explained, “I feel like I connected with Dawn from the moment we met. She is honest, with a beautiful heart. She dedicated her life to rescue animals and to care for them. Dawn was marked with grief from the loss of her son-in-law, who died 6 years ago from the same cancer.”
The intent was not to promote a religious agenda, but rather a recognition of hope for Dawn in the midst of her pain. Meeting Dawn where she was, seemed to be the best place to begin her journey towards hope. “Genuinely caring for Dawn inspired me to think of something simple to purpose her days and prepare for saying good-bye. She knew her family was coming this weekend and she knew they would be surrounding her in her final moments,” said Jennifer. Dawn wanted to be able to leave something behind for her family to ease the burden of being without her.
When thinking about comforting Dawn’s family on their grief journey, Jennifer focused on how comforting the sense of touch can be when remembering a loved one. When Jennifer explained her idea to create handprint pieces as gifts for her family, Dawn’s face lit up. As Jennifer shared, “In putting the craft together, Dawn talked about feeling peace. She was also surprised that she could do something like this- even with her fading energy and strength.”
Jennifer set up Dawn at the kitchen table to create her handprint legacy as a gift to family members. With her handprint, there was an inscription that read, “With my hand goes my heart and all my love… Love Forever, Dawn/Grandma Dawn.” These handcrafted gifts had a significant impact. Her family was tearful when they expressed how much they would cherish the gift Dawn had created. As Jennifer acknowledged, “It is just a little bit of paint on a piece of paper, but it is the sentiment of love that the family will be able to hold onto when they can no longer hold onto Dawn.”