Samaritan’s spiritual support counselors comfort family members with short prayers, sympathetic touches, and a supportive presence. “But sometimes, such as at the moment of death,” says Chaplain Betty Warner, MS, BCC “you just don’t know what words are the right ones to console grieving family members when their loved one is touching eternity.”
It’s times like these when she offers a special memento – a small clay heart that’s just the right size to nestle in the palm of a hand. “Symbols take away the need for words,” she explains. She often encourages those present to choose the heart that speaks most to them from a fabric pouch she carries, “A heart is such a universal symbol, and yet, so personal.”
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Our spiritual support counselors and social workers also use these unique works of art with patients who are especially anxious or grieving. Betty says, “We encourage them to hold it tightly and use it as a worry stone, letting the clay heart carry their worries and fears so that their hearts are lightened.”
At memorial services, staff have asked each person attending to touch the hearts in a basket, “infusing them with their kind wishes and intentions,” before they are presented to bereaved family members. The hearts have also provided uplifting emotional and spiritual “centering” for staff members in their caregiving, explains Betty.
These healing gifts, each one different in color and texture, are lovingly handcrafted by SamariTeens, a group of high-school volunteers moderated by Sharon Wenner, Samaritan’s volunteer recruiter and youth volunteer coordinator.
The teens mix oven-bake clay colors and mold heart shapes. At the chaplains’ request, some hearts receive glued-on pin backs so they can be worn close to the recipient’s heart.
Sharon says, “I tell them they are not just creating clay projects; they are helping to share love and healing from their hands to Samaritan’s grieving hearts.”
Betty agrees. “Our patients and families are so moved when they hear that these beautiful mementos are made by young Samaritan volunteers.” Becoming visibly moved, she shares how touched she is each December when grateful families approach her at Samaritan’s annual Tree of Life ceremonies and say, “I still carry my heart with me.”