Supplied by Ty Watson House, the sunflower seeds got individual attention to ensure that they were strong seedlings, ready for planting in a small enclosed plot in the back yard of Ty Watson House. The children tenderly dug holes, placed their seedlings and proudly patted their prized possessions firmly in place before heading into Ty Watson House to receive homemade butterfly cookies and boxes of juice.
Gathered in the living room of the House, the class was then lead in a discussion about death, dying and the purpose of hospices by Theresa Maxmenko, the Program Coordinator of Ty Watson House. In preparation for the discussion, Ms. Doughty had read the class an age-appropriate book from the Ty Watson Library that explored those themes. Now, under the expert guidance of Ms. Maxmenko, the children answered questions, shared personal stories and asked their own questions.
Through the discussion it became abundantly clear that these children understood the cycle of life, including death, and the role that a hospice facility such as Ty Watson can play in making one’s journey through the dying process more comfortable. Several had experienced the loss of a dear family member and most had felt the loss of a precious pet, bringing critical life experience to the discussion. Most understood that the sadness of losing a loved one is normal and a necessary part of the grieving process. Several offered profound understanding of the human need to celebrate a life and hold dear the symbols of a loved one’s presence on this earth.
One child, after spying the beautiful stained-glass butterfly lamp that sits on a table in the Ty Watson living room asked, “Why do you have a butterfly lamp here?”
Theresa responded, “Thank you for noticing…that lamp is very special to us. When someone from the House dies, we leave the lamp burning for twenty-four hours as a symbol of their passing. Why do you think we would use the butterfly as a symbol of a person’s death?”
One student answers, “I think that the butterfly symbolizes that there are stages to life and death is one of them.”
Another elaborates, “I think it’s because, in life, we are caterpillars but when we die we become butterfly angels.”
Among the adults, including one very attentive resident of Ty Watson House, there is barely a dry eye in the place.
By late summer, the waving sunflowers will add their happy beauty to the gardens of Ty Watson as yet another symbol of precious life. The staff, volunteers and residents of Ty Watson House gazing upon them each day will be reminded of how we are all just a little richer for making a vital connection between Ty Watson House and an important segment of our society…the children.