Our Stories

Simple Wishes to Bring Joy in the Midst of Suffering

Written By: Louis Monticchio, Director of Pastoral Care

I am part of an interdisciplinary team (IDT) for Barnabas Health Hospice as a chaplain. Each of us, nurses, social workers, volunteers, home health aides and chaplain are always listening for simple ways to make our patients and families experience joy in the midst of life’s suffering. The chance presented itself in August when a lovely woman named Alice shared a wish with me. I had been visiting Alice and her niece at her home every few weeks to provide spiritual and emotional support as she approaches the end of her life. She would always greet me with a big smile and be curious about what was going on in my life. In her presence you quickly realize she is a person who is always looking out for others who come across her path in life. On one particular visit, Alice remarked that our medical director, Dr. James Foley had been by to visit with her and she was curious if I knew him. I mentioned that the IDT meets every two weeks and Dr. Foley is a member. You could tell by her smile that she enjoyed the visit with him and went on to remark that he’s a really good doctor. I nodded in agreement. And then she added that he always seems very serious and quiet during the visit. I commented that that is a big part of his personality, but there’s a whole other side. Well, you saw her eyes open wide and her curiosity had been peaked. I mentioned that he’s a bit of a jokester in the office, playing pranks on his colleagues at times. You could see her mind quickly trying to visualize this new aspect of her favorite doctor. Then I mentioned, he even drives a motorcycle. Well, she immediately erupts in laughter with the response, “Are you serious, Dr. Foley on a bike?” I nodded and mentioned that there’s this whole other side of him. Then it happens, remember how I said earlier that we have to be on the lookout for those little joy wishes that surface when you least expect it. Alice just blurts out that she can’t imagine Dr. Foley riding a motorcycle. The thought pops into my head, we can make this happen. Without making a firm commitment to her, I just said “You never know, that wish might come true!” She just smiled back at me. When I got back to the office the next day, I started planting a seed with Dr. Foley about Alice reaction to his two wheel hobby.

Well, this past weekend before Dr. Foley headed down to South Jersey on his bike for a fundraiser he pulled into Alice’s driveway. She heard the throaty road of a vintage Triumph and caught sight of him through her first floor bedroom window. Alice and niece Carol, her caregiver, were so pleased to finally have a chance to this other side a doctor who she trusts and respects so deeply!

Being a member of a hospice team is a honor and privilege, it provides us the opportunity to assist a person through moments of pain and fear and to know that life is never truly over as long as we can experience moments of joy in the midst of suffering. We try to accomplish each day by listening for those simple wishes of the people we care for.

Thanks Alice for letting us make one of your wishes come true!

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