August 28, 2014
Eternal Butterfly Program Takes
Shame & Stress Out Of Death
By BOB SHAW
St. Paul Pioneer Press
Woodbury, MN (AP) When the sign of death appeared at the door, Morida Tinucci wasn’t alarmed.
The sign was a butterfly card, a signal that her cancer-ridden mother was dying. Tinucci saw it as the start of a pre-funeral funeral, in which her mother could hear her own eulogies.
``It was an open invitation to the staff and relatives to say goodbye,’’ said Tinucci, whose mother, Sandra Rabe, died July 24 at age 75.
The butterfly’s message is one aspect of chaplain Basil Owen’s innovative approach to death at Woodbury Senior Living, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported.
Owen drags death out of the dark corners and into the daylight, where people can see it, talk with the dying person and grieve in a positive way. It’s a mentally healthful way for family, friends, staffers and even the dying people themselves to find peace.
``This is how we do death,’’ said Owen, between his rounds at the 300-resident facility.
Owen worked for years as a counselor for the dying, and he didn’t like what he saw.
He saw that most senior care facilities treated death as if it were shameful. People who run the facilities were worried, he said, about residents being shocked by death.
So death would be kept as inconspicuous as possible. When a resident died, the body would be slipped out quietly, often during the night, often through a back door.
Then, the next day, visitors would show up to find an empty room. People simply vanished.
Other residents could imagine their own demise happening the same way -- dying alone, suddenly, and being hauled out without so much as a ``rest in peace.’’
``What I saw was actually harming people,’’ Owen said.
Like any business, the centers want to please their customers and don’t like to see them, for example, bursting into tears.
``It makes you uncomfortable,’’ Owen said. ``We are in the health care business. We are not in the death and dying business.’’
The death-denying approach was also painful for staff.
``You have been caring for this person for years, and they are dying and you are grieving, but you are not supposed to -- that’s what they are taught,’’ Owen said. ``Well, that was just wrong.’’
Owen developed an alternative. ``The Eternal Butterfly’’ is his program and philosophy of dealing with death.
When a resident is dying at Woodbury Senior Living, Owen places the butterfly card by the door. The butterfly makes the person’s status public. Neighbors see the card and come in to pay last respects. The family is notified.
``That sets the tone in the room. That is a signal,’’ Owen said.
The program reduces stress.
Normally, Owen said, family members who rush to a dying parent feel guilty, especially if they live far away and haven’t visited in a long time.
They overreact with displays of concern. ``They pounce on any of the little things the staff does wrong. If they see a little bit of scrambled egg on an outfit, they pounce on that,’’ he said.
But with the butterfly program, relatives know that even if they can’t be present, their loved ones will most likely not die alone and ignored.
``It’s a whole different spin for family members than if you just didn’t care,’’ Owen said.
After death, the process continues. An announcement is made that the deceased person will be taken out of the building at a certain time.
The body is taken out on a gurney. At the front door, residents and staff gather for a short ceremony that includes a blessing and a prayer.
The ``butterfly send-off’’ at the door serves as a kind of on-site mini-funeral, which accommodates residents who are unable to get to a funeral service.
The same is true for the staff, who often have cared for the dying people for years. The facility has about 100 deaths a year, so staffers can’t be expected to go to every funeral. The doorway ceremonies give them a chance to grieve.
``It sends a powerful message -- we are all in this together,’’ Owen said.
Tinucci said her mother died at 12:35 a.m. July 24, but Owen said he would wait until the next morning to wheel out her body to give others a chance to participate in the send-off.
That morning, Tinucci, exhausted and grief-stricken, followed her mother’s body as it was wheeled out of the building.
Instead of slipping away invisibly, her mother was honored -- passing through hallways lined with staff and residents.
At the doorway, she said, ``there was a wonderful little blessing.’’ Her mother’s body was draped in a ``beautiful quilt.’’
``To be treated with such respect and honored in that way,’’ Tinucci said, ``was a very powerful experience.’’
Formerly Homeless, NC Woman Lives To Help Others
By MELANIE FLOMER
Richmond County Daily Journal
Rockingham, NC (AP) Beatrice Biggs Parker makes wishes come true, but she’s no fairy godmother.
She’s just an ordinary woman doing extraordinary things to help bring a moment of happiness into the lives of people she said God puts in her path _ people who are seriously ill or near death.
Parker lives in a simple but comfortable house in Rockingham now with her dying husband, but at 77, she remembers a time long ago when she was homeless. Her first marriage had collapsed, and without a job or a roof over her head, she came to a life-altering realization one day that would extend far beyond herself for years afterward.
``I didn’t have anything, I was homeless,’’ Parker said. ``My marriage sort of went downhill, but I didn’t let it get me down. I didn’t grieve. I decided not to grieve. I decided instead of sitting around feeling bad all the time, I was going to go out and do something for somebody else who was grieving.’’
Asked where she got that kind of courage, Parker pointed upward.
Parker said she didn’t know what it would be, or how she would make it happen; she just knew she would make someone else’s wish come true. And one day at church, she heard a voice tell her this was her time.
``I was singing in church one Sunday and there was this little girl and she came up to me,’’ she said. ``And there was something wrong with her eye. I went up to her mama and asked what was wrong with the little girl’s eye. She told me the girl had a tumor.’’
Something moved Parker to take action for what would be the first of many times, and she leaned down and asked the girl if she had a wish and could make it come true, what would it be?
``She said, `I want to see Kenny Rogers.’ And I said to myself ,’My God, what have I just said?’ I didn’t know how I would do it, but I decided I was going to make sure she saw him,’’ Parker recalled. ``I called Kenny Rogers and made arrangements, he told me when and where to bring her, and I had to fly her to Landover, Maryland. And you know what? She went blind four days later. Her name is Paulita Oxendine.’’
Parker said she doesn’t like airplanes or flying.
``I’m scared of `em,’’ she said. ``But I said, `I’ve gotta do this’ and like I said, four days later (after meeting Kenny Rogers) she was blind. She still lives, but she’s blind in both eyes and I don’t know how in the world just four days later it came that quick. Maybe I seen it before it was coming.’’
Parker said she has never been turned down by any of the celebrities she has called on for help in granting wishes to dying and sick people. Among the stars who have heeded her call are Clint Eastwood, Michael Jordan, former presidents and first ladies George and Barbara Bush and Bill and Hillary Clinton, country singer Barbara Mandrel and late NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt (who Parker said was notorious for turning down invitations like hers).
Parker doesn’t remember the names of all the people she’s helped over the years, but it’s a long list judging by the photographs that decorate her home office, and the prestigious awards stacked on a high shelf spanning two walls of the room.
She has won two Daily Point of Light Awards since 2002. The award, started by former President Bush in 1989, recognizes ordinary Americans for voluntarily taking action in their communities and making positive change.
But making others’ dreams come true is not the only gift Parker has to share with the world.
``I write poems,’’ she said. ``And I can’t explain how I can pick up a pencil to write.’’
The poems, she said, just come to her as if from another place. She said she picks up her pen or pencil and the words just come through her, and while she’s writing, she wonders where the words are coming from. Parker has several poems on plaques. She sells them to help supplement her fixed income, and one of her fondest memories is of a day she went into a restaurant to pick up some take-out she had ordered.
``I walked in and went to the counter and told the girl who I was,’’ Parker said. ``And I’ll never forget, there was this woman, an African-American woman, and she came out from the kitchen and asked `Did I just hear you say you are Bea Biggs?’ and I said, `Yes.’ And she reached in her pocket and pulled out a folded piece of paper. It was one of my poems, called `Mamma,’ and she told me she keeps it in her pocket everywhere she goes. Her mother had passed some time ago.’’
Parker said she wouldn’t object to having a book of her poetry published, and admitted she probably has enough verses to fill a book.
Asked whether she still makes wishes come true, Parker said she still welcomes all chances to help others. She seems to come from a different world in some ways.
``I see people out places,’’ she said. ``And if they seem like they need to be lifted up, I’ll walk over and lay a hand on their shoulder. One day I was in a shop and I saw two ladies I didn’t know and I just went over and patted her on the back. She said, `Excuse me, but did you just touch me?’ and I said `Yes, I did. You looked like you could use a hug.’ And she just looked at me and asked, ``Where are you from? People don’t do that anymore.’ And she really appreciated it. People are cold now. Cold.’’
Parker said she always looks for people who seem like they could use a little encouragement or help. And she prefers to stay out of the picture whenever possible.
``Because it’s not about me,’’ she said. ``It’s about them, and making their wish come true. That’s what it’s about.’’
Information from: Richmond County Daily Journal, http://yourdailyjournal.com
UN Panel Finds Global Warming Likely Irreversible
By SETH BORENSTEIN
AP Science Writer
Washington (AP) A new international draft report says global warming is here, human-caused and can already be considered dangerous. The report warns that it is increasingly likely that climate change could be irreversible.
The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change on Monday sent governments a draft of its final synthesis report, which combines three earlier, gigantic documents by the Nobel Prize-winning group.
The 127-page draft, obtained by The Associated Press, paints a stark warning of what’s causing global warming _ burning fossil fuels _ and what it will do to humans and the environment. It also describes what can be done about it.
The report said the climate changes that have already occurred are widespread and consequential, while the human fingerprints on the problem are clear and unequivocal.