:“It’s solemn,” Joni DeVita began, “but a wonderful celebration of life!”
DeVita, an MSN, RN and Hospice manager for the Visiting Nurse Association (VNA) of Care New England, issued that statement last Friday evening after a powerful Interfaith Memorial Service at St. Barnabas Episcopal Church in Apponaug.
“We do this memorial service every year,” said Nancy Roberts, who is president and chief executive officer of VNA of Care New England. “Tonight’s theme was ‘A Time for Remembrance.”
The 2012 Interfaith Memorial Service honored 375 former Hospice patients who passed away during a 12-month period.
“This makes your heart feel badly for these families,” Roberts said, after watching her staffers pour the love and devotion of their craft into the moving memorial service. “We’re very proud and very honored that families ask us to help them during difficult times and that we play an important role in their lives.”
Roberts said the VNA of Care New England is able to provide what people called “wonderful care” by receiving reimbursements from a number of health insurance agencies.
“We also receive private donations,” said Roberts, who began her career with the VNA of Care New England in 1982. Along the way she served as staff nurse, assistant director, manager and director. “I came up through the ranks as they say...”
Roberts also noted that the Interfaith Memorial Service has been held annually since 1989.
“We hold the service at various churches around the state,” Roberts continued. “This is a beautiful church ... we want to especially thank Rev. [John] Pallard for helping us make this memorial service special.”
Father Pallard, who came to St. Barnabas two years ago, was one of four who delivered inspirational and comforting words to those people who nearly packed the ageless Episcopal parish.
A half-dozen members of the Ocean State Women’s Choir, under the direction of former Pilgrim High music teacher JoAnn Phillips, further enhanced the service with four songs beginning with “Aria” and concluding with “Amazing Grace.”
“They really made this special,” DeVita said of the Ocean State Women’s Choir. “It was beautiful.”
In addition to Phillips, the Ocean State Women’s Choir members who sang were: Catie Flynn, Rebecca Mallette, Rena Anthony, Elisabeth Richardson and Brittany Dyer.
DeVita gave the welcome address and Leslie Simonson, the VNA Care of New England’s chaplain, delivered the invocation and benediction. Roberts offered a beautiful opening greeting and Christine Knott, a Hospice volunteer, read a poem entitled “Following” by John McKenna Sr. (1928-2012).
There were also six other readers, who ranged from home health aids and social workers to registered nurses. They were Chris Kelly, Carolyn McDonough, Mary Harvey, Dawn Stevens, Joanne Simoneau and Jeanine Santos, and they each delivered a portion of the 375 Hospice patients who passed away during a 12-month period.
In keeping with tradition, family members of the deceased were invited to come forward and place soil into the yellow rose bush – the night’s symbol of remembrance – when each of their loved ones’ names were called.
And that yellow rose bush, Roberts said at the conclusion of Friday night’s memorial service, “will be planted on the grounds of the VNA of Care New England in memory of the loved ones to symbolize life eternal.”
Other members of the Hospice Care Team who helped make the memorial service special were: Alfred Arcand, MD; Linda Austin; Patricia Brouillette; Joni DeVita; Mary Harvey; Chris Kelly; Carolyn McDonough; Janet Reynolds; Jeanine Santos; Dawn Stevens; Joanne Simoneau; and Paula Toland.
Also assisting were Kathy Topor, MS and chief financial officer, and Hospice volunteers, including Evelyn Correra, Marcia Bubolz, Agnes Fox, Marie Hogan, Christine Knott, Joan Melaragno, Linda Park and Helene Zaharakos.