Legendary Bluesman B.B. King Receiving Home Hospice

As he battles multiple health problems, the legendary “King of Blues” announces his receiving at-home hospice care and thanks fans for their support during the difficult period
"King of Blues" B.B. King

Credit: Wikipedia

With a flourishing career since 1949, the 89 year-old “King of Blues” B.B. King announced on his website on Friday May 1st to fans: “I am in home hospice care at my residence in Las Vegas. Thanks to all for your well wishes and prayers.” This comes after a couple of serious hospitalizations over the last few months. Both hospitalizations had to do with suffering from dehydration, a complication from the Type II diabetes he has battled against for over 20 years.

The most recent hospitalization in Las Vegas (where he resides), however, happened the day before he announced his home hospice care. As CNN and its affiliate KLAS announced, he was hospitalized “because his daughter, Patty King, said he wasn’t eating and was dehydrated” and “tests showed King may have had a minor heart attack.”

This news comes as a sad reminder that we, as humans, don’t live forever no matter how well loved and talented we might be. The important thing to remember, though, is that there is great home hospice out there to help provide support and comfort for patients during the final days and months of their lives, as well as providing help and support for the families and loved ones of those dying. People can die with dignity and surrounded by those who loved them in a more comfortable and familiar environment than a hospital.

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Memorial Song: Gilbert O’Sullivan’s Hit “Alone Again” Touches on Many Kinds of Grief and Loss

Including something unfamiliar to us, unacknowledged grief
Gilbert O’Sullivan Who Sang Alone Again about loss and grief

Credit: express.co.uk

The lyrics of Gilbert O’Sullivan’s 1972 number one hit “Alone Again” beautifully weave stories in and out of many kinds of grief and loss. The song grabs our hearts with these heartbreaking losses, having earned him 3 Grammy Awards for the top pop song.

This mournful melody of a song is perceived as very personal to the listener. Over the years, much speculation has suggested the lyrics were about O’Sullivan’s life, but according to Songfacts he has “…denied that his song is autobiographical or about the death of his father when he was 11.” Still we can’t help but want to share our feelings and experiences with others, including pop stars. What remains is the variety of grief and losses he sings about allowing us to identify with the song in so many ways.

His most familiar references are the death of his father — “I remember I cried when my father died” — and his mother — “And when she passed away, I cried and cried all day” — all universial experiences at some point in our lives.

Gilbert O’Sullivan also sings about unacknowledged grief and loss, a loss not involving a death but that can be just as difficult. He sings of types of abandonment “left standing alone in the lurch at a church.” He realizes “It seems to me that, there are more hearts, broken in the world, that can’t be mended.” He also asks himself about God, “why did he desert me?”

No matter what loss we might experience or how we move through it, O’Sullivan speaks the most universal truth of all to us, as the title appropriately says “Alone again, naturally.” Even with the help of others, we all move through our journey alone.

To think that only yesterday

I was cheerful, bright and gay

Looking forward to who wouldn’t do

The role I was about to play

But as if to knock me down

Reality came around

And without so much as a mere touch

Cut me into little pieces

Leaving me to doubt

Talk about, God in His mercy

Oh, if he really does exist

Why did he desert me

In my hour of need

I truly am indeed

Alone again, naturally

Read the full lyrics here.

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Monday Hearts for Madalene

Page Hodel creates the most beautiful hearts in an ongoing celebration of love

Summer 9_edited

Holding You Tight Over the Years

It’s an honor for SevenPonds to share with our readers the story of the Monday Hearts for Madalene project, a true account of the power of love in the midst of death.

The project’s origins take us to 2005: the moment Page Hodel encountered Madalene Rodriguez and fell “instantly, dizzyingly in love with her.” The couple’s first meeting was electric, and Page felt inspired to do something unique for the woman who captured her heart. So, she began leaving handmade hearts – made from flowers, leaves, and other materials – on Madalene’s doorstep.  The hearts became a ritual, and they were there to greet Madalene as she left for work every Monday.

“To start her week with a visual reminder of our beautiful love.” Page Hodel

Just seven months later, Madalene was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and passed away on June 20th, 2006. But Page’s love for her hasn’t ceased, and she continues to make a heart for her every Monday in celebration of her life.

If you would like, you can also receive Page’s “Monday Hearts for Madalene” by emailing her at page.hodel@gmail.com with “subscribe” written as the subject. Images of the hearts can also be purchased on individual cards and in her beautifully compiled book, Monday Hearts for Madelene. Please also visit her website and Facebook  page. A portion of all sales will go to the Women’s Cancer Resource Center in Oakland, California (www.wcrc.org). See more Monday Hearts for Madalene here.

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“On the Death of Anne Brontë” by Charlotte Brontë

Charlotte Brontë’s beautiful poem captures the painful grief people experience when they lose a beloved sibling for whom they would have done anything to spare them from the physical and emotional anguish of dying
Sisters' Love

Credit: tumblr.com

Charlotte Brontë’s tribute poem to the loss of her baby sister, Anne, serves as an example of the reflections that occur in a grieving person’s mind when they lose someone for whom they deeply loved and cared.

Within the span of 10 months, Charlotte Brontë lost three siblings, culminating with Anne’s death. A what-is-now-believed-to-be tuberculosis epidemic quickly killed first her brother Patrick Branwell, then her sister Emily (best-known for Wuthering Heights) before Anne lingered with it for about five months.

Unlike Branwell and Emily, Anne tried to fight as hard as she could to overcome the advanced tuberculosis — through the medications and advice available to her at the time — rather than to succumb to the devastating disease.

“On the Death of Anne Brontë” commences with Charlotte’s opinion of witnessing her sister’s death firsthand and the emotions that the loss of her sister has instigated. She says, ‘There’s little joy in life for me,/And little terror in the grave;/I’ve lived the parting hour to see/Of one I would have died to save.” These lines allude to Anne’s whirlwind of a final visit to Scarborough — a place where she had spent many holidays — with Charlotte and their lifelong friend, Ellen Nussey.

Initially, they made the trip because Anne was feeling slightly better and was hoping that a change of scenery would jumpstart a possible recovery. Instead, as the few days since they left progressed, Anne’s health rapidly deteriorated.

She realizes that the hope for recovery has passed and she must accept her sister’s impending death, so that her sister can die peacefully.

Within a day of consulting a doctor, Anne calmly took her last breath at the age of 29 with Charlotte and Ellen by her side after telling a distraught Charlotte to “take courage.”

This most likely explains why Charlotte describes herself at the scene as “Calmly to watch the failing breath,/Wishing each sigh might be the last;/Longing to see the shade of death/O’er those belovèd features cast.” She realizes that the hope for recovery has passed and she must accept her sister’s impending death, so that her sister can die peacefully.

Thanking God appropriately fits the Brontë siblings’ upbringing with their clergyman father.

Charlotte Brontë's sketch of Anne Brontë

Charlotte Brontë’s sketch of Anne Brontë
(Credit: Wikipedia)

Charlotte comes to terms with the gravity of her loss and the immensity of grief associated with losing someone so close to her by giving thanks to “God from my heart,/To thank Him well and fervently;” because “Although I knew that we had lost/The hope and glory of our life;/And now, benighted, tempest-tossed,/Must bear alone the weary strife.” Thanking God appropriately fits the Brontë siblings’ upbringing with their clergyman father.

The contrast between Anne representing the light in the lives of her loved ones and her death representing the extinguishing of that light demonstrates how such a significant loss of a young daughter and sister can drastically change how her loved ones view the world once she is gone.

Grief can have such a powerful effect over those left behind that viewpoints can forever be altered. Where one might have seen beauty and light in life when the person was alive, this can quickly change to seeing the world as a gloomier and “benighted, tempest-tossed” place. This viewpoint often lasts a long time when dealing with grief over a loss, especially if the grief becomes complicated.

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Saving Face

Salvador Dali's portrait of his dead brother incorporates -- guess who? -- himself
Portrait of My Dead Brother - Salvador Dali

Portrait of My Dead Brother (1963)
(Credit: wikiart.org)

Salvador Dali isn’t exactly known for his subtlety. His large ego was only surpassed — and certainly supported — by his wild creativity, which showed us a (very) different way(s) to look at the world.

We can look to his paintings and try to piece together the man and the myth that comprises Dali. Take for instance, his portrait of his dead brother, aptly titled “Portrait of My Dead Brother.”

Because we are talking about Dali, this portrait is not simply a portrait, and Dali is front and center here, too.

A face emerges in the middle of the canvas, as dots coalesce to form the facial features of a young boy, presumably his brother. His brother died as a toddler, nine months before Dali was born, and Dali shared his first name with both his father and dead brother.

This connection seemed to haunt Dali; he was born into the shadow of grief.

Salvador Dali close-up

You can just make out the dark and light cherries connecting as molecules above the nostrils.
(Credit: wikiart.org)

Light and shadow play out in this painting. Looking closer, we see cherries; the pop-art-like dots that give rise to the face that stares back at us are cherries. The cherries molecularly form the features of Dali and his brother; lighter red cherries descend from above, or heaven, and darker brownish cherries ascend from the ground, the earth, connecting at a point just above the nostrils.

Salvador Dali

Credit: paulocoelhoblog

These two forces, light from above and darkness from below, form the composite image of Dali’s face and that of his brother.

This may seem inverted, since we often associate the ethereal heavens with those we have lost, and the earth with the muddied, physical presence of the living. But Dali considered himself divine…so, there you go; our Dali is The Salvador that comes from the heavens.

As Dali himself stated, “Every day, I kill the image of my poor brother. . . I assassinate him regularly, for the ‘Divine Dali’ cannot have anything in common with this former terrestrial being.”

To assassinate his brother in this instance, Dali has enlisted an army. Some of the cherried dots either lose or gain form as men of war that march across the lower right quadrant of the painting.

Spears in hand, they seem to be fighting off the cherries, or are protecting them. It is hard to tell the difference. The war-like figures in the center of the painting become the darker cherries that ascend towards the heavenly Dali force — the shadow appears to be winning if taken by mass alone.

Salvador Dali Close-up

Credit: wikiart.org

Various shapes across the visual field hint at other bodies, worldly and otherworldly. Those with feet planted in the ground settle into positions of giving or receiving solace when not at war.

Reading this portrait becomes a dizzying experience. It shifts and spirals as it forms some sort of twisted storyline that emerges only to fall back in on itself, much like life itself.

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Who Guides Hospice Volunteers? An Interview with Steven Willey, Hospice Volunteer Manager, Part Two

In the second part of a two-part interview, SevenPonds sits down with Steven Willey, hospice volunteer manager, to find out what inspires him and how he inspires others

Today SevenPonds speaks with Steven Willey. Steven Willey began his hospice career in 1995 as a volunteer and Home Health Aide for San Luis Obispo County Home Health and Hospice. In 1997, he became Volunteer Coordinator for Hospice of San Luis Obispo County, where he remained until joining Wilshire Hospice in 2011. Steve has degrees in both psychology and social sciences and completed the Sacred Art of Dying course at the Sacred Art of Living Center in Oregon. In 2001, he helped found the Supportive Care Services Program at the California Men’s Colony which trains inmates to provide compassionate end-of-life support for fellow inmates. His role at Wilshire Hospice includes the training, supervision and nurturing of hospice volunteers.

Steven Willey

Steven Willey
(Credit: Carla Friedman)

Carla: I completed my first hospice training long before the mainstream medical and insurance communities were fully educated and accepting of hospice care as a common practice. Now almost fully integrated into our healthcare system, do you feel that the corporatization of hospice has diminished or enhanced its essential quality?

Steven: I feel that the soul of hospice is still the same, but I’m saddened by the pervasive necessity of ‘quantification.’ We seem, as a culture, to want to qualify everything, to measure everything to make sure we get our money’s worth. People don’t want to be cheated and are focused on getting what they feel they are ‘owed.’ That seems to have increased over the past seven years or so. San Diego Hospice had a fantastic and highly respected program. They were forced to close after a Medicare audit found that there were patients who were on service that may not have met hospice criteria. Proper documentation of a patient’s decline was also an issue.

Of course these are important issues, but the tens of millions of dollars San Diego Hospice will probably have to pay back sent a chill throughout the industry. More and more patients don’t fit into clear “six months or less” timelines, and the fear of more intense scrutiny has to be balanced by the care we want to give patients who still need hospice support. Oversight is good, but it shouldn’t be the center of the experience. The soul should be the center. The soul of this work is, though, completely intact, and I think it always will be. Almost everyone I work with has that soul.

"Leaning Tower of Steven"

“Leaning Tower of Steven” at home in Italy
(Credit: Steven Willey)

Carla: Do you find that those seeking hospice care for themselves or a loved one varies in terms of gender, race, economic strata and/or demographic?

Steven: It might vary culturally, but not racially or economically. The degree to which people allow themselves to be ‘vulnerable’ is the degree to which they accept or reject hospice.

Carla: As if working with the dying isn’t challenging enough, you have also both trained as hospice carers and counseled dying prisoners here in San Luis Obispo. What’s that like?

Steven: This work has taught me that the ordinary things are all that matter. It doesn’t matter to me what someone has or hasn’t done in their lives — political, religious, moral, etc. What matters is what their soul is doing in that moment: what are they looking at, what’s hard for them, what do they hear, the immediacy of the present. Volunteering in the prison has given me so many insights into things like forgiveness, hope and genuineness, and my education there is ongoing. I will always be deeply grateful to the men I’ve worked with in the prison for what I have learned from them. I hope we are all able to look at our lives and see at least one or two things we’ve done that really matter.

Carla: Being present without judgement, without agenda with a present mind and open heart?

Steven: Yes. I would add only the importance of being genuine. Of just being yourself.

Carla: I know that you have a love of poetry, which you often share throughout the hospice trainings and volunteer meetings. Would you share one of your favorites with SevenPonds?

Steven: Sure. Here is one:

Musee Des Beaux Arts. WH Auden.

Credit: Carla Friedman

Musée des Beaux Arts (1940)
W.H. Auden

About suffering they were never wrong,
The Old Masters: how well they understood
Its human position; how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just
walking dully along;
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there always must be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy
life and the torturer’s horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.

In Breughel’s Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water; and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.

Carla: Thank you for speaking with us!

Steven: Thank you.

Read Part One of this interview with Steve Willey here!

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