Skirball Hospice Service a Bridge from Memory to Blessing
In the days and months after their patients pass away, the Jewish Home's Skirball Hospice remains in the lives of their patients' families and loved ones. They offer bereavement support in the form of one-on-one counseling, personal letters and phone calls.
Since 2014, Skirball Hospice has hosted a memorial service to honor the memory of the patients in their care who have passed away throughout the year.
"Families and loved ones can often feel alone because they think no one else is feeling what they're feeling," says Ashley Teal, executive director of Skirball Hospice. "The memorial service provides people with an opportunity to sit and grieve together—to be with people who understand that their worlds have changed and reflect on that."
This year's service was held in March at the Skirball Cultural Center.
Bereavement Coordinator Alice Lynn, who organized the service, introduced the program: "Today, we gather as a community comprised of families, friends and Hospice team members. Today we celebrate those who have passed. We remember the love, laughter and priceless memories you may have shared."
During the program, Skirball staff and volunteers lit candles, performed music and shared readings. A moving ritual of building a matzevah, or altar of stones, to represent the individuals being remembered was also part of the program. As each patient's name was read, a stone was placed in their memory. Family members and loved ones were then encouraged to share their stories and memories.
For Mitzi Schwarz, the memorial service was especially poignant.
Schwarz is one of Skirball Hospice's spiritual counselors. She works with patients and their families "bearing witness," she says, to what they are going through during the end-of-life stage. In this capacity, Schwarz had attended and performed at three Skirball memorial services. However this year, she was grieving her own father, who had been a Skirball patient.
"It was a blessing for me," Schwarz says of her father's time as a Skirball patient. "To be supported by the Skirball Hospice team felt like I was being supported by my family. No one was a stranger."
At the memorial, Schwarz says she felt comforted by being in the presence of her fellow mourners. "I was able to just let my emotions flow," she recalls. "Being with other families whom I had helped throughout the year deepened the experience."
For more information on the Skirball Hospice program, please call 818-774-3040 or visit skirballhospice.org.