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Technology brings brothers together to dream a little dream

Vancouver | May 19, 2020
Miles don’t delay this time to say goodbye between brothers thanks to a tech-savvy chaplain.

A gentleman called Joe* was a patient at the Ray Hickey Hospice House in Vancouver, Washington. Joe had a tumor in his throat which prevented him from taking in any food or drink and he was not expected to live long.

Extremely challenged by his shortness of breath and because his anxiety level was so high, Joe requested his caregivers to “Knock me out.”

Joe was very welcoming to Chaplain Mary Sykora-Haley of Vancouver’s PeaceHealth Hospice when she came one day to begin doing spiritual assessment with him. He told her, “I believe in God, but I don’t believe in churches and preachers.”

After a short period of time, Chaplain Mary felt Joe began to trust her presence and was especially interested in an offer she presented to him, “Would you like to FaceTime with your brother?” Joe respond that, yes, he would.

A brother-to-brother connection

Caregivers had requested that Chaplain Mary find out more about Joe’s people, specifically his brother for whom they only had a phone number. She called his brother Tom* who knew Joe was in hospice but had not spoken with him--let alone seen him-- in a long time.

Tom and his wife have been living far away and hadn’t been able to travel for a quite a while. Tom was also very interested in FaceTime with his brother. The thought of it brought him to tears and he said to Chaplain Mary, “You are an angel.” They agreed on a time later that day so Tom could make sure FaceTime would work on his end.

Chaplain Mary began to get excited about this FaceTime coming together through technology, allowing a visual and audible brother-to-brother connection despite the many, many miles between them. She started to fantasize this touching scene of connection and the sacred memory it would create for her to put in her box of sweet reminiscences. She could hardly contain herself, waiting for time to pass so the brothers could be hooked up to one another.

Dream a little dream of me

What happened when Joe and Tom were connected? They stared at each other for a long moment; then Joe broke the silence, “You got words for me?” Chaplain Mary’s heart sank briefly as she wondered what they were getting into. The tone and shortness of the comment made her wonder where this was going. Then, Tom began to sing . . .

“Stars shining bright above you;
Night breezes seem to whisper, "I love you."
Birds singing in the sycamore tree;
Dream a little dream of me.

Say ‘Nightie night’ and kiss me;
Just hold me tight and tell me you'll miss me.
While I'm alone and blue as can be;
Dream a little dream of me.”

Tom sang with such heart and tenderness, and Joe said, “All right,” and gave a thumbs up. Tom sang another song while Joe sat quietly, drinking it all in as I watched him resist with all his might the medication which was causing him to fade. He kept resisting because it was so obvious that he wanted more than anything to be with his brother for each of those precious remaining moments.

Joe continued to struggle, staying alert as the brothers exchanged words of pride in each other, sharing pure love and blessings for the rest of the journey, with a promise to meet again, “On the other side.”

Love, compassion and sweetness

When Chaplain Mary came into work the next day, she learned Joe had died peacefully. Caregivers shared stories about their connection with him. Everyone who met Joe in the short time he spent with them seemed to be affected by him. He touched each one in his own unique “Joe” way.

Although she knew little about him, Chaplain Mary believes Joe was a man very much in touch with what she calls his wholiness. Being present in that room with those brothers - watching and listening - is what chaplains dream of experiencing, and in being there she had been blessed with “a little dream” herself.

Chaplain Mary is thankful to the Spiritual Care department at PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center and all who had a hand in providing the technology which made this visit between brothers possible. It is her newest story in her collection of sacred memories; times when she was part of such a blessed connection of love, compassion and sweetness.

*Names changed to protect privacy.


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