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Beyond Words: A Writer's Gift to Hospice
My hometown library is less than a mile from my childhood home near the ball field in the center of town. The architecture is a reflection of what was considered grand and fancy when it was built in 1842. This means that the building is made entirely out of thick marble, stone and brick with an impressive arched entryway flanked by columns.
When I was a girl, climbing the library steps meant entering another world. Inside, it smelled like stone dust and books and when I tilted my head back, I still couldn’t see the tops of the high shelves. In the children's corner, there were multicolored storybooks and I sat on a rainbow hooked rug and listened during story hour, craning my neck to see the pages as they were held up.
My favorite stories were the ones where the main character set out on an adventure to seek something or complete an important task. In my memory, every story ended in success with a triumphant, happy ending. After story hour, I left with my weekly book choices tucked under my arm and stepped out into the bright sunlight to a world that seemed different. The willow tree out front possessed the new potential to hide magic empires beneath its branches and the ball field was a place where every game ended in a ninth-inning-bases-loaded heroic win.
As I got older, my literary choices became more sophisticated and I learned that stories don't always have a happy ending.The challenges characters faced were more complex than slaying dragons or finding buried treasure. But the lessons were just as valuable. I learned how other people, both fictional and real, faced adversity and found meaning in a confusing world. I learned that I could explore any subject simply by checking out a book.
About the time I was working my way through the young adult section at my library, my father was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. I did what I always did and turned to books for solace. For a long time, I was drawn to stories about loss and sadness. I looked to the characters for examples of similar emotions and experiences so I didn't feel so alone.
That summer was also my first introduction to hospice. The nurses who visited our house wore nametags and stethoscopes and carried big bags with them. During their visits, they always took the time to ask my brothers and me how we were doing and really listened to the answers. I had my first experience of feeling understood by people who provided comfort, outside my immediate family. Later that summer when my father passed away, we were all comforted by the fact that he was able to spend his last days at home.
I had my next experience with hospice care eight years later when the unthinkable happened and my mother was diagnosed with a rare form of terminal cancer. One of the nurses who had cared for my father visited us even though she no longer worked in the area. I remember seeing her walk in the door and feeling an immediate sense of relief. I sat at one of the stools in the kitchen and let the tears fall while we talked. She and the other nurses helped get our family connected with the hospice counseling center in a nearby town to provide some much-needed emotional support.
Knowing that hospice provided counseling inspired me to seek out therapy when I returned to college after my mother's death. The counseling was invaluable to my healing and one of the essential components of my therapy was journaling. At the encouragement of my therapist, I filled entire notebooks with my deepest thoughts and feelings. I didn't know it at the time, but it was my early introduction to the practice of writing.
In addition to writing, books continued to have a central role in my life. I added books about psychology, grief and loss to my shelves that were overflowing with fiction and non-fiction. And I kept writing. Within a decade I had stacks of journals, one unpublished novel, and pages and pages of poetry, essays and short stories. Looking over my efforts, I decided I was finally ready to write the one story that mattered the most: my own.
Three years later a package arrived from my publisher with the first bound copy of Beyond Words. I opened it and ran my hands over its cover, thinking about how it would look on the tall shelves of a library with marble floors. I imagined my younger self searching on those same shelves for understanding and solace. This book is my gift to her.
To read more hospice stories, visit our blog section.
In the spirit of gratitude to the amazing individuals who provide so much care to others, ten percent of the proceeds from the sales of the book are being donated to hospice.
Visit the author’s website www.gaylehuntress.com for more information and book purchase links. Contact the author for discounts on bulk purchases or to receive signed copies.
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