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‘Living Fully’ Series Helps Cope with Death

by on March 29, 2017 5:00 AM

Mark Twain once said, “The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.”

How do we live fully? One way is to talk about issues surrounding death and dying. But if you are like most people, this is not something you talk about.

Sandy Schuckers, with the Centre County Office of Aging, wants to change that. Holly Reigh, of Grane Hospice, and Koch Funeral Home’s Helping Grieving Hearts Heal program currently are offering a series of classes, "Living Fully Now," at the Bellefonte Senior Resource Center.

The genesis of these classes was the Office of Aging seeking input on their four-year plan. They held several meetings around the region and one common need was information about grief. After evaluating options, they decided to use the senior resource centers as venues to connect people with information and support on matters of death, dying and grief.

“It is really important for people to have a safe place to share their stories and receive support and understanding," said Shuckers. "The Bellefonte Senior Resource Center is a great place to meet. For this class series, we’ll be in the living room of the center — a nice homey place.

"It’s a great series which folks can join in at any point. We are happy to be including lunch in the program, giving the opportunity for more discussion. We want everyone to be able to come to their own conclusions and understanding in their own time and in a safe place.” 

“Living Fully Now” will provide people with the opportunity to come together and discuss topics such as myths and perceptions, what happens as we die, the spiritual aspects of death, appropriate documents needed, bucket lists, eulogies, things to tell the funeral director, companioning ourselves and others through grief and more.

The three goals of every class are to learn about death, dying and grief, get to know one another and support each other along the way.

During one class, Reigh, a nurse liaison with Grane Hospice, will discuss hospice, being with someone who is dying and what happens to our bodies as we die.  

“Hospice is that scary, ugly word that no one wants to talk about and I want to have open discussions with people to answer questions and help people understand," said Reigh. "Most people prefer to talk about wellness rather than illness, so we tend to avoid planning.

"I’ve had personal experiences with loved ones passing away. In some situations, hospice was involved, and in other situations hospice was not accepted, and yet another time we waited too long to accept hospice and didn’t receive the full benefits. 

"I want to be a resource for people to get answers to those questions that need to be asked.”

Other guest speakers will include:

■ Chaplain Dave Hersh, also with Grane Hospice, who will talk about the spiritual aspects of death and dying.

■ Attorney Tammy Weber and Lisa Hillyard, of Marshall, Parker and Weber Elder Law and Estate Planning, who will discuss appropriate legal documents.

■ Funeral director and supervisor Glenn Fleming, of Koch Funeral Home, who will address pre-planning, burial versus cremation and other options.

As a spiritual director and celebrant, I am continually reminded about how important it is to think about these issues and discuss them with your loved ones. After losing her spouse of almost 60 years, a wise woman recently shared how grateful she was her husband planned ahead and made his wishes known to her. Although the pain of losing him was still great, she knew she lovingly cared for him just as he asked. This gave her great peace.

We hope you will join us for these free gatherings on Tuesdays at 10 a.m., which will continue through the end of May. Class size is only limited by the amount of space at the center. RSVP to Vickey at (814) 355-6720 by Friday the week before each class.

Jackie Hook, M.A., is a spiritual director and celebrant. She coordinates the Helping Grieving Hearts Heal program through Koch Funeral Home in State College. For more information, call (814) 237- 2712 or visit www.kochfuneralhome.com.

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