At Hospicare we provide palliative care, hospice and grief support to all residents of Cortland and Tompkins counties.
Illuminations, our annual community memorial, is a part of the fabric of our community, allowing us to honor and remember loved ones who have died. Every year, we offer this memorial service as a way for the community to come together and grieve our losses.
Due to Covid, it was a hybrid event this year. A small group of our staff was able to hold the ceremony in the Hospicare gardens – the ceremony was livestreamed for guests via Zoom.
On Thursday, June 10, we lit luminaries across Hospicare’s grounds, each light representing the loved ones we remembered and celebrated for the contributions they made to our lives. The ritual was presented by members of our incredible staff: Joe Sammons (executive director), Edna Brown (social worker), Rebecca Schillenbeck (spiritual care provider), and Rachel Fender (social worker). We honored the parents, children, siblings, grandparents, family members and friends who helped shape us and our worlds.
In closing, Rachel Fender shared a poem that captures the beauty and power of collective healing. It is titled “If the trees can keep dancing, so can I” and is an adaptation of a poem written by Nancy Cross Dunham.
What I’m learning about grief is that it sits in the space between laughs comes in the dark steals the warmth from the bed covers threads sleep with thin tendrils is a hauntingly familiar song, yet I can’t remember the words…
The poem was collectively written, crowdsourced by over 30 people living across the United States and internationally. You can read the crowdsourced version here and the original here.
Please reach out if you need additional support for processing your grief check out our grief support resources here.
We are all faced with the question of whether or not to forgive many times in our lives.
Each time it is challenging. Yet there are ways of seeing it that simplify the question. Forgiveness is a choice that allows us to heal on our own, without the offender apologizing or even acknowledging their part. Forgiving in this way is for the benefit of the person who forgives, not for the wrongdoer. It does not mean what the other did was all right.
We can also choose to forgive ourselves; sometimes this can be even harder than forgiving another. In our culture, we often hear the phrase, “Forgive and forget.” But it isn’t about forgetting. It is about regaining the energy tied up in anger and hurt about past stories, and using it for far better purposes.
When we lose a parent, a loved one, faith in someone else or ourselves, we become vulnerable in a way that feels exposed beyond endurance. To protect ourselves, we may harden into anger or explode with blame, as we attempt to restore our sense of safety. Deep hurt may propel us to say or feel, “I can never forgive you” or “I can never forgive myself.”
We may become fixed in that moment of time. We create a story about our grievance and repeat it to others and ourselves. Our outward lives continue, but our anger and hurt tie us to that point of pain and it lives on, consuming our life energy in ways we barely realize, until one day if we’re lucky, we may wake up and say — enough, this exhausts me.
I came to this place several times in my life. The first time, I faced difficult childhood recollections and over time began to understand the value of forgiveness. Each time after that allowed me to experience how forgiving helped me in ways I did not imagine possible. The turning point each time was the realization that my anger and hurt kept me completely connected to the one I was angry at, that I could not move on while I was caught in these feelings. I inadvertently learned about forgiveness because of my life circumstances and unwillingness to let the past deflate my life energy any longer.
I choose to tell my stories publicly so that others will have the courage to tell theirs. Stories can heal us. My healing process included making documentaries about my journey. These stories were heard by thousands of people around the world and helped them heal.
We tell ourselves repetitive stories about how things were and stay locked in these tales. Yet, shifting the story to consider other possibilities, new ways to see the situation, has positive effects in a short time. Our eyes are opened, our hearts softened. We can move on from a place of depletion toward renewed energy.
When I work with people about forgiveness, I ask them to write down their story the way they tell it to others. We tend to develop a few set sentences or paragraphs that tell our tale. In the workshops, we write our usual story, and then distill it into a few brief sentences and say them aloud to someone else. They listen carefully and repeat it back to us as they heard it and felt it. We hear it in a new way. A shift begins.
Hearing our own story in a neutral way, hearing the compassion someone else feels for our story, softens us toward our self. We feel tenderness for ourselves as if the story were someone else’s. From this tender place, we begin a meditation on forgiving ourselves. In gradual steps, we bring light into our darkened places. By the end of the workshops, a shift toward hope is possible. It happens when we learn to retell our own story with acceptance of our own and each other’s humanity. Forgiveness opens a door.
We can choose to forgive not because we ought to, but because it helps us heal.
Forgiveness is a choice that allows us to heal from past hurts that diminish our lives and effect our health and well-being.
The focus of the two-part workshop “Finding Forgiveness: Healing After the Loss of a Parent” is to help adult children experience forgiveness as an on-going process, even after death. Learning to forgive our parents and ourselves opens positive possibilities.
During the workshop, you will experience a forgiveness process through a blend of meditation, discussion, journaling, brief exercises and gentle movement to guide you toward a softened heart and healing. This workshop is for anyone who has been hurt, but has not yet healed.
Learning to forgive our parents and ourselves opens positive possibilities. Thursday, May 13 & 20, 7:00-8:30pm.
MARA ALPER is a teacher, media artist and writer. Her documentaries Stories No One Wants To Hear (1993) and Forgiveness: A Healing Documentary (2006) have reached world-wide audiences about healing past pain. She inadvertently learned about forgiveness because of her life circumstances and her unwillingness to let the past deflate her life energy any longer. Her award-winning documentaries and video art have screened nationally and internationally. www.MaraAlper.com
This program was offered by the Hospicare Threshold Choir of Ithaca on February 21, 2021.
The choir members are volunteers at Hospicare. Our volunteers provide assistance to patients and their families in a variety of ways, and for Threshold Choir members that way is through music. Other Hospicare volunteers offer companionship, respite for caregivers, light housekeeping, and assistance with shopping. This is done in the patient’s home setting or our 6-bed residence on East King Road in Ithaca.
The Hospicare chapter of the Threshold Choir was started in 2017 by Jayne Demakos, then director of Hospicare’s Music Program. Threshold Choir as an organization was founded by singer/songwriter Kate Munger in 2000, and now has over 150 chapters worldwide.
Threshold Choirs sing for people at the threshold of life as well as for their families and friends, in private homes, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, hospitals and hospices. The choir sings in groups of 2 to 4 singers using the instrument that we all have, the human voice, to share songs of comfort and caring.
Members of the choir are not performers. The choir sings to people who may have different levels of attention and different needs. They may sing softly and gently to someone who has fallen asleep or someone might sing along with us, requesting songs that have special meaning for them. The Threshold Choir does their best to honor wherever they are on their journey.
Since bedside singing is not currently possible, Hospicare’s Threshold Choir is exploring creative ways to share their voices and presence. The Song Bath focuses on sharing the joy of singing and promoting a feeling of well-being and ease.
We invite you to sit back or lie down, close your eyes, if you would like, and be bathed in songs that soothe the soul.
We hope that you enjoyed listening to our talented choir and that it brought you peace and a sense of calm during this crazy time in the world. Thank you to all the singers for letting us into their homes and for showing us what magic they can bring to someone in need.
If you are interested in the Threshold Choir please contact Wendy Yettru at 607-272-0212 or WYettru@hospicare.org.
Although we could not be together in person, our virtual memorial on December 6th was incredibly moving and we thank everyone who participated, either by attending or by sending in names of loved ones.
For the first part of the memorial we took advantage of Zoom technology and broke out into small groups for intimate conversations in breakout room. We were honored that so many people choose to open up and share both their joy and sorrows. We offered tips on how to cope with the upcoming holidays and participants shared stories of how we are choosing to remember our loved ones this year.
We’ve created a short video for those who weren’t able to join us. Please enjoy our memorial video which features the wonderful music of Travis Knapp and a slideshow memorializing the community’s loved ones.
Always remember, Hospicare is here for you. The holidays are not going to be the same this year but know that you are in our thoughts. May peace and grace find you in the New Year.
We want to share this fun video of SPLASH, the Hospicare Mermaid visiting our service areas and talking about the mission of Hospicare. It truly highlights the importance of this event to the community!
Enjoy the recording of our Virtual Community Memorial. As we navigate these uncertain times, how we define and feel grief is changing. We mourn the significant loss of loved ones in our lives, as well as the 114,000+ Americans who died as a result of the pandemic. We grieve for the turmoil in our country, the loss of “normal,” and the ways in which we have had to modify our ways of life and our interactions with one another.
Registration for Lake Swimmers for Women Swimmin’ for Hospicare starts bright and early, 6:00 a.m. on Monday, May 7. Are you ready? Lake Swimmer registration fills very quickly so set your alarms!
To get ready for registration day check out our website www.womenswimmin.org. This year Women Swimmin’ registration options include: Register as an Individual, Form a Team, and Join a Team. Please choose the Registration type that suits you, and if you’re not sure, don’t worry! If you register as an individual and later decide to form or join a team that can be accomplished from within your Participant Center. If you participated last year please use the same username and password. These were sent to you via email on April 8.
You’ll be asked to enter specific information, including:
Your date of birth (all swimmers must be at least 18 years old on the date of the swim)
The name and phone number for an emergency contact (someone who will be on land and reachable the morning of Aug 11)
All participants must have a unique email address to register for Women Swimmin’. If you plan to register multiple participants please make sure that you have an email address for each before you get started.
Whether you need special accommodation to complete the swim (for example, needing to use a snorkel, or if you can’t wear a latex swim cap)
If you want to swim with specific swimmers and/or be escorted by a particular boater
Information about how fast you think you’ll swim
Why you’re swimmin’ for Hospicare. We love hearing the reasons women choose to do the swim! We recommend you compose an answer before you register (you can also update this field after you register) so you can cut and paste it into the box on the registration form.
There is a non-refundable $25 registration fee for swimmers which goes toward your $200 fundraising minimum. If you are not one of the first 350 Lake Swimmers to register, you can still have a chance to swim- we will register 30 Wait List Swimmers. In past years, we have been able to offer a swim day spot to each woman on the wait list!
Important Note: The online registration process works best from the standard version of the website. Some swimmers have had trouble registering from their phone or tablet. We strongly recommend you register from a laptop or computer.
On the morning of Saturday, August 11, 2018 Cayuga Lake will be bustling with activity for the 15th Annual Women Swimmin’ for Hospicare. Women Swimmin’ is a community swim—not a race—that raises money to support of the work Hospicare & Palliative Care Services. More than 300 women will swim 1.2 miles across Cayuga Lake that day escorted by nearly 200 boaters and supported onshore by 100 volunteers. Dozens of other women will be swimmin’ laps in pools in Tompkins and Cortland counties, across the country and even around the world in the months leading up to August 11.
Women Swimmin’ is Hospicare’s largest fundraising and community outreach event of the year. Many of the services we provide to our community are possible because of the generous support we receive though Women Swimmin’. Obviously, all of us at Hospicare think it’s a wonderful event, but you don’t need to take our word for it! The following is what some past participants have said about Women Swimmin’.
From women who swam across Cayuga Lake:
“My favorite part of Women Swimmin’ is the sense of community, joy and love on the day of the event, meeting new people, and knowing that I’m helping a family receive the end of life support the need.”
“It was one of the most beautiful and powerful days of my life and I can’t wait to do it again and again. The greeting I received coming out of the water from one of the volunteers moved me to tears.”
“I believe in the purpose, in Hospicare. The swim is a wonderful way to raise money and give back. Swimming across the lake I swim with all I have lost. Shadow swimmers beside me crossing the lake on a beautiful morning.”
From women who swam Laps:
“It just feels good to do something that is good for the community as well as for your own health.”
“I loved being able to swim Laps because I couldn’t make it back home to Ithaca for the swim! It was fun to stay involved despite being farther away.”
From some of our boaters:
“Rain or shine, wind or calm, it’s a great day. A chance to be on the water, do good, honor those that are gone, celebrate with those that are here, and help promote an extremely important and worthy cause.”
“It is a fantastic way to support friends, families and Hospicare. In a world that is full of negatives, this is a celebration of Life.”
“Hospicare was my family’s blessing a few years ago. I was glad to give back to them!”
If you’d like to join us for Women Swimmin’, as a swimmer, boater or volunteer, here’s what you need to know to participate in this year’s event:
Lake Swimmerregistration will open May 7 at 6:00 AM. In past years swimmer registration filled in 2 to 3 hours, so if you’d like to swim the lake this year, we suggest you plan on setting your alarm for 6:00 AM on registration day. This year’s event is eagerly anticipated by women in our community–and beyond. Some will even come from other states and other countries to participate!
Boaterregistration opens April 15 and will be ongoing until August 5.
Women Swimmin’ Laps–where swimmers swim at their own pace in a swimming pool of their choice– opened for registration March 15 and will be ongoing until August 10.
Volunteer–registration opens May 15. We rely on the help of over 100 volunteers to make Women Swimmin’ possible!
For regular updates on the 2018 event, “like” Women Swimmin’ on Facebook.
At its heart, Hospicare & Palliative Care Services is a community organization, supported by and providing service to our friends and neighbors throughout Cortland and Tompkins Counties. We could not fulfill our mission of supporting those dealing with serious illness or grieving a loss, without the aid and involvement of our community. The annual Hospicare Recognition Luncheon allows us to come together with our friends and neighbors to show our appreciation for their contributions.
Amy Dickinson was our keynote speaker. A native of Freeville, a nationally known author and syndicated columnist of “Ask Amy,” Dickinson delivered a wonderful speech full of insightful commentary on life and meaning at the end of life.
We also presented two honors:
The Small Comforts Foundation, Ltd. received the Dr. R. Roy Coats Compassionate Care Award. This award is given to a caregiver or group of caregivers/agency, for consistently providing exceptional, compassionate care to Hospicare patients, allowing them to live their lives as fully as possible. Small Comforts is a local non-profit foundation “dedicated to funding and administering programs to raise the morale and or quality of life for people of all ages living with chronic illness.” Our Hospicare patients have been beneficiaries of Small Comforts compassion and generosity many times over the past 13 years. Some of the items they have funded include air conditioners for patients who didn’t have AC in their homes; a juicer so a patient could have fresh, nourishing juice; and warming gloves for a patient’s arthritic hands.
Charles Guttman received the Hospicare Volunteer Honor in appreciation of his 30 years of service to Hospicare. The Volunteer Honor is given to an individual volunteer or board or committee member who has demonstrated outstanding commitment to Hospicare and its mission. Chuck has volunteered through the years as a member of the Hospicare board of directors and the Foundation Board, and as an an advisor to the executive director on legal issues. He has also co-chaired the Hospicare Ethics Committee.
On Saturday, August 12, 2017, 284 women gathered to swim across Cayuga Lake (a distance of 1.2 miles). They were escorted by 150 boaters in kayaks, canoes, stand-up paddleboards and powerboats. And they were supported on shore by 130 volunteers who helped out at Cass Park, the Ithaca Yacht Club, the swim entry on the east shore, and in the days and weeks before the swim. Joining these swimmin’ women in spirit, if not in person, were 38 women who swam laps in pools throughout our community and around the world!
The women who decide to participate in Women Swimmin’ for Hospicare do so for many reasons. Some are swimming in memory or honor of a loved one who received hospice services. Some are swimming because they understand the importance of hospice services and want to make sure Hospicare will be here to support their family someday. Others swim for the physical challenge or the camaraderie of this community swim. One reason they all swim was proudly declared on our t-shirts, buttons and posters: “I swim to celebrate life.”
At its very essence, hospice is a philosophy of care that celebrates life. Hospicare’s mission is to support our patients so they can live their lives as fully as possible, for however much time is left. Our team of skilled professionals and trained volunteers work together to provide physical, emotional and spiritual comfort to our friends and neighbors who are dealing with terminal illness. All of us here today, plus thousands of donors around the world, have come together to make sure that care continues. To make sure everyone in our community can receive the hospice and palliative care they need to live their lives fully, regardless of whether they have insurance or means to pay.
Celebrating life and living life fully means different things to each of us. Obviously, it can mean swimmin’ or boatin’ across Cayuga Lake, or back and forth in a pool!
For some of the people we support, living life fully might mean:
a portable oxygen tank so he can go out to dinner with friends or watch a grandchild’s ball game.
a wheelchair and a raised garden bed so she can get outside and plant flowers
a volunteer to help her sort through and organize family photos
a social worker–and others–trying to make sure a beloved pet finds the right next home
a grief support group with others who are also grieving the death of someone they love
Most of all, it means there is an entire Hospicare team to make the burden of caregiving and dying just a bit easier.
All of us at Hospicare are immensely grateful for these swimmers and boaters who have given of their time and put forth great energy to fundraise for Hospicare. We also appreciate the volunteers and boaters, the friends and families who have supported our swimmers, and also to the corporate sponsors and underwriters who covered the expenses associated with the event. We truly could not support our community in all the ways we do without your amazing support.