A Reflection of Who I Am

Posts tagged ‘Death’

Unpacking Memories – Sylvia’s Room


Ministry Offers a shoulder, and more, to the grieving
Kim Mulford – Keeping the Faith

I won’t rewrite this article in full because it touches on a lot of personal information about others who were involved and may not want their names put on social media at this time. I will quote from the article only specifics about “Sylvia’s Room”. The article begins telling the story of a woman who had just lost her husband. He passed away at home as was his wish.

“There were no tears from his wife, not yet. As her family members wondered who to call- 9-1-1? The police? An ambulance?— she was calm. As she had done during her husband’s illness, she called Deborah Karper, a friend and trained volunteer from her church’s new bereavement support ministry called Sylvia’s Room.

“She got everything in motion,” said (the widow), during a phone interview on what would have been her 27th wedding anniversary last week. “She called the pastor’s wife. We got a beautiful funeral home. I didn’t have to do anything. They picked me up and carried me through everything.”

Sylvia’s Room was launched in October as an outreach ministry of Green Grove Baptist Church, led by the Rev. George E. Holland, Sr., in West Berlin. Eight volunteers, called ‘roommates’ meet monthly with the Rev. Albert Griffin, an associate minister at Green Grove, who is also a certified hospice volunteer.

The volunteers are trained to recognize the states of the grieving process, the signs of severe grieving and how to help those in mourning.

The ministry is named for Sylvia Martin, a Green Grove congregant’s mother who died last year.

Volunteers are typically matched with families before the death of a loved one, and remain in frequent contact for 13 months after the death. The church also holds quarterly Sylvia’s Room seminars, inviting people to learn more about life insurance, hospice care, wills and other end-of-life concerns.

The ministry is open to assist anyone, not just church members, said Griffin.

“We believe that with this type of focus, we can help people transition through the grieving process in a more healthy way,” said Griffin.

Volunteering as a roommate is not an easy job, but it is rewarding, according to Karper.

The 57-year-old Atco woman is already familiar with grief. She lost her husband of 20 years to cancer four years ago. When she can, she shares what she has learned with the two women assigned to her.

“Basically, I have been mostly a shoulder to cry on,” said Karper. She reassures them they aren’t going crazy, that their feelings are natural. If a woman is having trouble sleeping at night, Karper tells her to start a journal and write down their thoughts. She is there to listen and to offer spiritual support.

“When they ask for prayer, I try to pray immediately,” said Karper.

Since her husband’s death, (the widow) and Karper talk even late at night. (The widow) is a mother of three—including a 13 year old who still lives at home— thinks God brought her to Green Grove because she would need its help after he husband’s passing.

“Deborah has gotten me through quite a few nights,” she said. “Shes been a blessing to me.”

Although Sylvia’s Room is now a ministry of individuals who take on the task willing and eager to be roommates to those who grieve the lost of a loved one. In 2003 I was widowed after almost twenty years of marriage, and in 2004 my current husband was widowed after 20 years of marriage. It is very hard to ask for comfort when your whole world shifts so dramatically. We both know what it is like to experience the lonely hours after the funeral or memorial service and everyone returns to their lives. A widowed individual is left to start life without their significant other; no matter how good or bad. The emptiness takes time to be refilled and with each person it is different. 

No matter how long time passes; no matter if remarried or not; a widowed person carries their departed loved one with them always. Don’t find it strange. Take my word for it, this is a memory that will always stay with you. 

Memories – Ten Years and Counting

Sunday, December 15… Ten years ago today. I was not aware that it would be the last day my late husband Donald and I would have our last conversation.  As hard as I try I cannot remember what we spoke about.  When I left that night I was tired and he was resting comfortably. I was looking forward to his release and return to the rehabilitation center.  I was traveling between Voorhees, New Jersey and New York during those days as a Software Trainer and Programmer.  When he completed his stay a week earlier at Virtua, I admitted him to a Rehabilitation hospital so he could receive ’round the clock care. There was no one that I could call on to help with his care. By choice, we lived such isolated lives.

For two and a half years, Donald battled a rare cancer called, liposarcoma. It’s a fatty tissue cancer that normally appears in your extremities. It began in his abdomen and spread.  He was strong and determined to beat it. As I traveled away from home for work, he drove himself back and forth to University of Penn and then Fox Chase Cancer Center in northeast Philly from Voorhees once a week.

That Sunday evening, I slept hoping and praying that he would come home soon.  He hated being away from home. He said he hated being away from me. I woke up Monday morning at 6 am with the ringing of the phone.  “Mrs. Karper?” It was his doctor from Virtua, “Our boy had a very rough night. I’m sorry but you will have to start making arrangements.” What words to wake up from.  No how are you doing Mrs. Karper. Did you have a good night’s sleep. I stared at the ceiling and asked, “Are you saying I have to arrange hospice?”  I didn’t want to say “funeral” so I chose the safe word “hospice”. “Yes…hospice”.  So much can change in less than 24 hours.  Saturday we were sharing a movie in his rehab room. Sunday we were arguing and stressing about his hatred for the hospital. Monday I was arranging for hospice.

My dear friend, Janet Janka LaFrance gave me a number to call and the hospice nurse met with me around 2 pm that afternoon.  At 7 pm we move Donald to Kennedy’s Good Samaritan Hospice Center in Cherry Hill, New Jersey.  I sat with him for about three hours and then left because I thought I had forgot to turn the coffee pot off that morning.  During those days, I didn’t cook or make coffee. Donald handled those chores for over 15 years of our 19 years of marriage.

At 2:30 am I received the call that he has passed in his sleep. So, Saturday we are watch television together. Sunday we are at Virtua arguing. Monday we are sharing time together at hospice and Tuesday I am making funeral arrangements.

It can happen so quickly. Don’t let silly arguments and disagreements come between those you love. Time is fleeting and not promised. Tomorrow I celebrate an anniversary that I was not prepared for nor did I want.

I wrote a book in 2011 “Joy Comes Through the Mourning”.  It does. http://bit.ly/1kPpPum

Deborah Smart aka Deborah Karper

Life Goes On After Loss of a Spouse or Loved One

As I woke this morning I instantly felt Joy in my heart.  I had a great night’s rest.  I woke up chatty as my husband, Willie dressed for work.  Joy is a feeling that permeates my whole being…my body, my heart, my mind and my spirit.  Joy allows my smile to come to me as I remember certain people in my life.

This morning my mind is on my late husband, Donald.  December is the anniversary of his passing.  Although I currently share my life with a new husband and a new family, I cannot erase the 31 years that Don and I spent together as friends and adversaries.  Yes adversaries.  We had our ups and downs, but mostly ups. Especially during the last two years when he was fighting cancer.

For those who are widowed (male and female) its alright to celebrate your loved one even if you are in a relationship today.   Hindu women as a tradition in the past jumped on their husband’s funeral pryor (fire).  We do not have to celebrate ‘spiritual sati’.  We do not have to die and give up on life because our loved one has died.  We can carry their memory with us until we are laid to rest.

Romans 12:12 “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”

Be joyful in hope

At this moment you may not know if your life will improve as you go through the dark hours of grief.  But as a follower of “The Way” – the way to the throne of Heaven, you know that you are not alone and you have the opportunity to have joy and peace because of the grace and mercy of God.  Remove the negative thoughts that hold your heart captive.  Lean on the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, to carry you through your day.  Listen to uplifting music.  It is at your fingertips.  Go to YouTube for Take Me To the King by Tamela Mann...set up a Pandora.com account.  You can even listen to it on your smartphone.  There is no reason to totally isolate yourself from the blessings that are within your reach.

Be patient in affliction

Be patient as you grieve and wait on the Lord.  He will give you the tools and the way out of the darkness.  He will lift the burden from your heart even as the tears continue to flow when you reminisce.   “For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.” 2 Corinthians 1:5 (NIV).  Prior to my Dedication page in “Joy Comes Through the Mourning” I have 2 Corinthians 1:3-11 written to set the tone of my book.  Our source of comfort comes through Jesus Christ.  Be patient as he works in you through the Holy Spirit.

Be Faithful in Prayer

Prayer changes things are not empty words.  If you dedicate your life to seeking what God wants for you, you will find yourself moving out of darkness and into the light.  If you use this time of pain and loneliness to seek God, you will lead a very productive and joy-filled life.  Through consistent prayer and meditation, you will become a stronger person spiritually and emotionally.  As we heal our spirits our bodies will follow.

“For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” 1 Peter 3:12 NIV  Living outside of God’s will is living in sin.  It is God’s will for you to lead a healthy and joy-filled life.  When your life is in line with His Word, working through grief is much easier.  You realize that you have a purpose to your life and it matters that you are engaged in the world around you.

My prayer for you is that you will reach out to the only one who can help guide you through this period.  Call on the Holy Spirit who dwells within you.  He’s just that close. There is no time limit for the veil to lift, but there is a time for you to start seeking God and that time is now.

Oh I realized one more thing as I proofread this message.  This message is not only for the widowed.  It is also applicable for those who have suffered a lost of any kind through death, divorce or separation.

Be kind to yourself and choose Joy.

Deborah Wilson Smart
Author and Independent Publishing Consultant
Social Media Connections:
eMail: dmsmart@onesmartladyproductions.com
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Memorial Service Tribute to My Brother


On Sunday, January 15, 2012 my 65 year old brother Doug lost his battle against the debilitating affects of juvenile diabetes.  Below is my tribute that I presented at his memorial service held on Saturday, January 21st.


“Welcome. I first give honor to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who is first in my life. He has given me the strength and courage to stand before you this morning to reflect on the life of my brother William Douglas Wilson.

As I was preparing this Reflection, I realized that what we do and go through is to prepare us for unforeseen events that will come into our lives. I feel as if I am here about to do the welcome as I do at my home church Green Grove Baptist under the leadership of my pastor Reverend George E. Holland, Sr. in West Berlin, New Jersey. The purpose of this reflection is due to the fact that some of you never met my brother and are here to support me or a family member; or you may not have seen Doug in many, many years because that is the dynamics of life.

Doug was the oldest of the first set of my father’s children by my mother Dorothy. We were raised in Germantown during the 50s and 60s. In addition to Doug there is my brother, Avon who we call Eddie a retired Philadelphia Police Officer, my brother Eric, a Licensed Minister and Author and my sister Lisa Ann Davis who passed away in July of last year. It was a full house of five rowdy children who were raised not only in a house with both parents; but we were also raised by the surrounding neighbors because both parents worked. Later when my father remarried, he added a daughter January Nicole, an Author and a brother Paul Owen, a Business Manager.

But we are here today to celebrate the life of my brother, “Big Doug” Wilson. “Big Doug” is what he was called when we were in high school because of his size. He was almost 6 foot and weighed 211 pounds.

In high school all of my brother’s friends called me “little Doug”. I don’t think they ever really knew my real name. I was almost 5’4” and less than 100 pounds soaking wet.

On the night of my high school graduation, my brothers Eddie and Doug went out celebrating, while I sat home alone on our front porch. After a while one of the most popular boys in our high school stopped by looking for my brother. He said, “Little Doug what are you doing still home on your graduation night?” He could not understand why I was not out celebrating with everyone else. So he invited me to join him and I was thrilled. This was one of the most popular boys in Germantown and here I was riding around with him. I have to say he was a perfect gentleman. I enjoyed myself thoroughly and he dropped me off at the end of the evening well before midnight. Well when Doug found out that Pookie took me out, he had a fit. Of course I didn’t know what the big deal was. I also didn’t know about Pookie’s reputation either, but Doug did and he tore into him; just like big brothers are suppose to do.

Years later, I ran into another of Doug’s friends, I was 30 at the time, sitting in a restaurant eating with my mother when out of the blue came, “Hey Little Doug how are you doing?” Even to this day I believe if I live long enough, I will hear that tag line again.

As time passed, we lived separate lives and didn’t see each other as much; just because our different lifestyles got in the way. But as I worked with Jackie to put this service together, I learned a lot about my brother that I either forgot or didn’t know.

In High School he was known as “Big Doug” for his size, but as he matured into manhood, he was known as “Big Doug” for his heart. Doug was generous to his family and friends and was there when they needed him. After years of auto body painting, Doug was injured on the job and retired on full disability. He eventually trained at Americorp and became a volunteer. His preference was to tutor and mentor children with mental and physical challenges.

In 1985 Doug and Jacqueline Mendez met and fell in love. The challenge for their relationship was that it was a package deal. Jackie had a severely handicapped eight year old little boy by the name of Jose. When Doug expressed his interest in Jackie, she told him if you want me, you have to accept my son. Jackie said without hesitation he told her about our brother with cerebral palsy…and said no problem. As the pictures tell the story, their lives grew and molded together where the three of them were in separable until now. Doug accepted Jose as his own and loved him dearly. As Jose grew to love Doug, he began to look like Doug and act like Doug. Jose who has cerebral palsy is unable to speak clearly but is able to call Doug “Pop”. It will be hard for him to understand that Pop won’t be coming home from the hospital this time; but he will understand what it means that Pop is in heaven with God. Jackie is a woman, who in my brothers’ life, was second to none. She is less than 5’ tall but her stature over shadows us all. She was my brother’s advocate with each hospital stay and recently won a battle with Harrisburg to extend Doug’s benefits for home care when he was ready to come home. She was able to be his helpmate and wife and still be an excellent mother to Jose. She has spent 27 years of her life loving my brother and I want to publically thank her. “Thank You Jackie…I love you.” Together they have poured love into the lives of their son Jose and several special needs children in Philadelphia. As you saw in the pictures his life was surrounded by the loves of his life, Jackie, Jose and their dogs Goldie and Ginger. I ask you to continually pray for Jackie and Jose as they begin a life without “Big Doug”.

My relationship with my brother has always been a bit complicated. Our family has been gifted by God to be intelligent and strong minded. With these personality traits we have been able to overcome our life challenges. But these personality traits can also be a double-edged sword. Doug and I both have little or no tolerance for those who think they are more than what they really are. Where I believe I have a bit more give, he didn’t pull any punches or mince his words, if he felt you were wrong…you were wrong. There were no gray areas for him and at times that made it difficult to stay in his presence. But over the past couple of years, I was blessed to reconcile with Doug and his family. My love for my brother rekindled and he was “Big Doug” to me again even though he was wheelchair bound.

Doug died from the effects of juvenile diabetes which took control of his life at age 14. In 1999 he had a kidney transplant. In 2006 he suffered from a stroke but survived and was able to lead a productive life. In 2011, Doug was on the list again for a new kidney. He was called 7 times to the hospital but each time turned away. In September he entered the hospital for a long stretch until his death. A week before his death, they amputated one of Doug’s legs. He was doing well and was facing another series of operations to remove his colon, gall bladder and a hernia pressing against his back. Doug suffered over the last several months from a lot of pain. At the end, the infection took over his body and they were unable to stop it. We were by his side when he passed and I am happy to report to you that his passing was peaceful and quiet. He truly looked like he just went to sleep and decided not to wake.

Doug had a very strong opinion about his relationship with God. He knew and respected that God existed, but just like many, was not convinced or fully understood Jesus’ role in the relationship. His years of service and works demonstrated to the world how good a man he was; but he didn’t quite grasp how Christ died for our sins and the need to accept him as his Lord and Savior was more important than just good works. But then as fall changed to winter he accepted Christ and I know without a doubt that I will see my brother again when it’s my turn to enter Heaven’s Gates. I also know that I will hear, “How you doing Little Doug?” because my big brother united with his friends who had gone on before him let them know that I am on my way to heaven too.”

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