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News & Testimonials

Apr 03 2020

Small touches can have the biggest impact. How a woodworkers’ skill brings a calming moment to patients.

By Joel Krekelberg

I was asked why I carve hearts? The heart is the center of our being. It is the center of our physical being, keeping us alive. It is the center of our emotional being, showing us love. It is the center of our spiritual being, connecting us with God.

When I carve hearts, I wear noise protection, so I don’t hear outside distractions. I must concentrate, so I don’t think about work or commitments, only the heart I am working on. It allows me to think about who may be getting it eventually and lets me pray for that person in a very personal way.

When I give someone a heart, in essence it is a prayer from me. I often hear from people I give hearts to that they have a special place in the house that they revisit and see that heart and remember why they got one. Was it for a loved one who died? Was it just for encouragement? Was it to show them they were thought of in times of distress?

There are lots of reasons I share these hearts and keep making them. It gives me a certain sense of peace as I cut them from a larger piece of wood and fashion them into all sorts of smaller ones. Each one is unique, and it reminds me, each one of us are unique.

I wrote a short piece for one of my son’s weddings while carving rustic hickory. Rustic hickory has lots of knots and blemishes and when I carve them, often knots fell out and holes appeared and revealed “defects” in the wood. As I carved, I realized how beautiful they were. When I finished, I wrote this little prose.

“These wooden hearts are a lot like ours. They are unique and have different scars.   Often, the ones with the deepest and most scars, in the end, are the most beautiful.”

As I have been carving this week, I have had time to slow down. During these times of isolation, I reflect on my Hospice volunteering. This makes me stop and realize the isolation my patients must feel as they ready for death. The “social distancing” is real for them. Some have large and close families with lots of visitors while others have few. For the ones with few, we are their bridge and comfort during those times.

Being alone isn’t easy! We are social beings, needing community and touch. This only reinforces the need to be with the dying.

So, the heart thing-

When people ask why I carve hearts, I usually answer them with, “I think I am called to show those who are in need, that they are being prayed for and thought of by others and that we all are children of God.”

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Both my mother and father passed away at Sunset Hospice Cottage and the facility was a blessing to them and our family. It allowed us to be together through the good times and the hard ones. And enabled us to spend as much time with mom as she wanted without burdening her. Sunset Hospice Cottage provided the professional care, comfortable surroundings and spiritual support that we knew she wanted.

Paula Jorgensen-Lenz

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