TROY — Hospice workers have a tough job. Tasked with providing care to those in terminal condition, they experience more loss than just about any other profession. That’s why those workers and friends and family of patients that have passed came together at Mt. Pisgah State Park to hold a collective memorial service on Sunday.
“We gather together, we pray a little bit, we talk, we cry, we laugh,” said event organizer and Guthrie Hospice manager Anja Miller of the annual memorial service that attracted over 100 attendees. “It is a great support, people realize they’re not alone in this.”
This year’s event is the 15th annual Guthrie Hospice Memorial Service held at the Lakeside Pavillion at Mt. Pisgah State Park. Every year butterflies are purchased by workers, family and friends of patients, or anyone wishing to remember someone lost, and are released into the wild. 250 painted lady butterflies were purchased and released this year.
“It gives you a sense that everything is going to be OK,” Miller said of the releasing of the butterflies.
“It’s one of the hardest things for people to do, to come to something like this, and almost everybody leaves going ‘oh, I didn’t really want to come but I’m so glad I did,’” said Larry Jennings, Guthrie’s chaplain and bereavement coordinator, at the event. “It makes such a huge difference.”
Jennings remarked that some patients specifically request to not have any memorial service or funeral, and that events like this can help their loved ones find some closure. “It’s something that they come to in honor of their loved one,” he added.
Wysox’s Mike Reider lost his wife two months ago to cancer, after being together for 31 years.
Mike said he was hesitant to come to the event, but that he was happy he did after it was over.
“Today helped a little bit, but it’s only been two months. I’m glad I came, the butterflies are nice,” Reider noted. “It’s a beautiful thing, and a beautiful day.”
The memorial service was not just for the family and friends of lost patients, it was also for the hospice workers that never got the chance to mourn.
“We’re here on our own time because it means so much to us,” Miller said of her hospice staff.
Miller said that events like this are the few times that the workers get to see family members that they haven’t talked to since their loved one’s passing and get to reconnect.
“That’s the reason why we continue to do what we do… I am so honored to work with such an amazing team.”