Planning matters

Seasons of Hope

An open house for Seasons of Hope Grief Center and Memorial Garden was held on March 6, 2019. The beautiful 9000 square foot building is another addition to Community Home Health & Hospice, located near Salmon Creek in Vancouver and was fully funded by donations from the community.

A variety of services are offered, including educational courses, grief presentations, and support groups specifically designed for children (including a 3-day residential camp in August). Other groups are geared for teens, adults, men, and survivors of suicide loss led by experienced medical social workers. Support is open to everyone in the community—not just those touched by hospice—and services are free.

Before attending the open house, I made my way next door to the Elaine and Don Helmbigner Hospice Care Center. It was the first time I had been back since my husband had died there a little over three years ago. I wanted to visit the hallway where the tree of remembrance was located. On the night of his death, the employees escorted me as we transported his body to the waiting hearse. But we stopped in a hallway, where on the wall were stickers of separated leaves and a trunk forming a lovely tree. I was given a white marker to add my husband’s name to the “tree of remembrance.”

At that time the hospice center was new and there was only one tree on the wall. I placed his name at the tree trunk, representing the foundation and support he had been in my life for over 37 years. Now there are multiple trees along the hallway, with many names, symbols, and expressions of memories and love for departed loved ones.

I knelt, touched his name and remembered his visits during hospice respite care. I reflected on our lives together and grieved again. As I looked up, I saw a white marker available, so I added a heart and cross symbols next to his name. Memories and tears came, but I sensed a release and another step of healing.

Then, I attended the open house next door. I was amazed at the design and thoughtfulness for grief support, healing, and encouragement. There is a room with beautiful stained-glass windows, separate areas for classes, rooms for children with a viewing area for parents, a youth activity room, kitchen and conference room. Plus, there is a “memory cave” which is a small room with black walls and blacklights where youth are encouraged to write memories or messages to their loved ones on the walls. Outside are lovely memorial gardens full of plants, water features, benches, walking paths, and more. There are multiple serene spaces to remember, reflect or release emotions.

At the end of the evening, I walked away touched and humbled to see how they support and encourage adults, as well as children, suffering from grief, using various expressions of emotions through art, nature, dance, talking, and even a camp. And, I was reminded how blessed we are to live in an area where we have such a tremendous resource available when dealing with heartache – regardless of the time in our life we experience it.

Written By Karen Brown