Telling the Story of One’s Life: Homeland Hospice Launches My Life, My Legacy Program


homeland helps their patients tell their storiesWe all have a story to tell filled with memories and experiences of our life. Like a good book, our story is cataloged into chapters, with recollections of our childhood, youthful dreams, careers and families of our own. These memories can fade quickly with the passage of time. To honor and preserve the story of one’s life, Homeland Hospice has launched the My Life, My Legacy program for hospice patients and their families. Homeland Hospice is a nonprofit hospice program that serves communities throughout Central Pennsylvania.

Through the My Life, My Legacy program a hospice volunteer meets personally with the each patient and their family to ask questions about the patient’s life. Over a series of visits, the volunteer records the responses and allows the family to add their thoughts and recollections, as well as photographs. The end result is a printed book for the patient to help him/her find peace, and pride in his/her life story. The book also helps families preserve memories after their loved one dies.

“Each story is distinctive based on the patient,” says Laurie Murry, Volunteer Coordinator for Homeland Hospice. “We focus on the topics that interest them most.”

The concept for the program originated with an existing component of a patient’s end-of-life journey. Each patient goes through an informal “life review” with a volunteer, which helps the Homeland team best serve a patient’s individual needs.

Homeland Hospice volunteers and staff believed the life review process could be enhanced to better tell a patient’s story.

“Our volunteers guided the creation of the program,” Laurie adds. “Their insight has been invaluable.”

For Carol Wambach and her family, the My Life, My Legacy program has provided insight into her father’s life, especially his childhood memories. Carol’s father, James Pagano, receives care from Homeland Hospice for Parkinson’s disease, dementia, and heart failure. While James struggles with short-term memory loss, he vividly remembers his parents, family and friends growing up in Rutherford Heights on the outskirts of Harrisburg.

In his book, James also shares fond memories of his wife of 73 years and his four children, as well as his passion for gardening.

“My siblings and I helped with the book,” Carol says. “We added some questions around topics important to our father.”

With James’ book completed, Carol has made copies for her sibling and the grandchildren in the family.

“Memories can fade over time, but we will always have this book about our father,” Carol adds. “It has brought our entire family comfort.”

When Sharon Reed’s mother was approached about the program, she eagerly accepted and looked forward to her time with Glen Dunbar, the volunteer from Homeland.

“My mother greatly enjoyed her time with Mr. Dunbar from Homeland Hospice. His questions and life legacy topics provided wonderful memories and even insightful information to us,” Sharon says.

Sharon’s mother was fortunate to have full control of her faculties up until the last few days before her death. Her vivid memory provided wonderful content for her book, which was completed and delivered the day she died.

“We displayed the book at my mother’s funeral,” Sharon adds. “It was a lovely way that day to share such special information and photos. We still turn to Mr. Dunbar’s book as a happy remembrance of my Mom.”


Homeland Hospice is a hospice program that serves 14 communities throughout Central Pennsylvania by providing end-of-life care either in a person’s home or wherever they reside, including nursing facilities. Homeland also provides bereavement support to families for a full 13 months following the death of their loved one. This service is available to anyone in the community who is experiencing grief.

For more information about the My Life, My Legacy program, call Laurie Murry at (717) 221-7890.

Finding Creative Methods for Channeling Grief: Meet Amy Zecha


amy zecha with a pillow she sewedWith a stitch of a needle or stroke of a paintbrush, Amy Zecha of Harrisburg is finding creative methods for channeling her grief following the death of her mother Angelyn. With the help of Homeland Hospice’s bereavement program, Amy has found productive ways to discuss her grief and reconnect with art and crafts, which she has always loved. Homeland Hospice is a nonprofit hospice program that serves communities throughout Central Pennsylvania.

In April, Amy connected with Homeland Hospice when her mother was in the final stages of her battle with kidney disease. As her illness progressed, Amy knew they needed the extra care and support only a hospice program could provide.

“From the beginning, the Homeland team listened to my mother’s needs,” Amy says. “Being seen and heard during this challenging time was so important to my mom.”

At the time, Angelyn was living at Bethany Village in Mechanicsburg. Homeland’s hospice services are available any place an individual calls home. The Homeland team worked with the staff at Bethany Village to provide comprehensive care for Angelyn, which brought Amy comfort during a difficult time.

Following the death of her mother, Amy began bereavement counseling with Noelle Valentine, MSW, LSW, lead bereavement counselor for Homeland Hospice. Working with a counselor who specializes in helping people deal with grief, helped Amy in ways she never imagined.

“While I was grieving the loss of my mother, I realized I had unresolved grief over the death of my brother,” Amy says. “Counseling lifted a weight off of my shoulders.”

Homeland Hospice provides bereavement support through phone calls, mailings, one-on-one consultations and support groups up to 13 months after the death of a loved one. Support groups offer self-awareness, healing, helping others, a sense of community and coping skills. Bereavement support is available to the bereaved of Homeland’s patients as well as anyone in the community who is experiencing grief.

paintings and drawings by amy zechaAs the weight of grief lifted for Amy, her creativity returned. Amy has begun painting, drawing, sewing and knitting again. Her mother taught her many of these skills and encouraged her to pursue them as a child.

“Over the past few years, I didn’t have energy to focus on my creative pursuits,” Amy adds. “I’m productive again and enjoying every minute of it.”

Amy’s creations include funny paintings and greeting cards with puns, which remind her of the wonderful sense of humor shared by both her mother and brother.

This fall, Amy became a Homeland Hospice volunteer. She is creating memory pillows for families who have lost loved ones. The pillows are frequently made of articles of clothing worn by the deceased family member. Amy’s first memory pillow was created for a woman who recently lost her husband. The pillow is made from his ties.

“Sewing meant so much to my mother,” Amy says. “I am so happy I can help others while using a skill she taught me.”

To learn more, please contact Homeland Hospice at (717) 221-7890.

Kindness and End of Life


elderly patient in end of life care

World Kindness Day, celebrated annually on November 13, promotes the importance of being kind to each other, to yourself, and to the world. It is a reminder that compassion for others is what binds us all together.

When working with patients through their end-of-life journey, compassionate guides and partners are vital. Having an experienced team comprised of nurses, aides, social workers, chaplains, bereavement counselors and volunteers can make the journey more comfortable, less frightening, and provide an opportunity to learn how to embrace life while preparing to die. Sprinkle the knowledge and experience that hospice has to offer with a generous amount of kindness and patients and their loved ones will feel sustained during a time of great need.

Hospice kindness involves staff …

  • Slowing down and taking time with someone to provide thoughtful listening, and in many cases, merely sitting in silence with the patient.
  • Helping patients explore spiritual frustrations, loss of hope, and questions of value, worth, and meaning, and encouraging and assisting in life review, a process that allows patients to understand and affirm that past actions were good and justifiable and that they had worth.
  • Providing reassurance to alleviate fears of pain, suffering and loneliness.
  • Conversations that lead to an understanding of the person, not simply of the disease.

Homeland Hospice is proud to practice this every day with our hospice patients and their families,  ensuring each person in our care is treated with respect and kindness.

Homeland Hospice Staff Member Earns Advance Certification: Meet Angie Smyser


angie smyser, homeland hospice social worker

After four years as a social worker with Homeland Hospice and nearly two decades of working in the profession, Angie Smyser has earned her certification as a licensed clinical social worker, which refers to social workers who have obtained their master’s degree in social work and completed the requirements in their state to obtain their professional license. Angie is the first person at the organization to achieve this accreditation. Homeland Hospice is a nonprofit hospice program that serves communities throughout Central Pennsylvania.

Social workers are an integral part of Homeland’s team of support. They work with nurses, counselors, home health aides, physicians and others to provide comprehensive support to patients and their families. Social workers assess the emotional dynamics of a household and help families face their concerns during a patient’s end-of-life journey.

“Social and emotional issues come along with health issues,” says Mary Peters, MSW, assistant director of social services at Homeland Hospice. “Social workers bring these components together to best serve our patients.”

As a licensed clinical social worker, Angie can now both meet the immediate needs facing families and dive deeper into counseling to help patients and their loved ones overcomes emotional barriers to finding peace.

For Angie, helping people involves looking at the behaviors and emotions at the surface as well as what is kept private and only shared after earning one’s trust.

“We all have layers to our emotions,” Angie says, “Dealing with the imminent death of a loved one often brings out unresolved feelings and issues.”

Through her training, Angie has learned to approach issues through a clinical lens to see how she might help patients and family members deal with the root causes of issues. Finding productive solutions to problems while family members have the opportunity to communicate often lessens the burden of grief after the passing of a loved one.

To earn her license, Angie completed 150 clinical hours with an experienced licensed clinical social worker who served as a mentor. Angie participated in individual and group sessions monthly or more frequently for more than four years. This was followed by a comprehensive exam, which she passed in August.

“Homeland is fortunate to have Angie’s skill set,” Mary says. “We can now bring an additional level of support to our patients and families.”

For Angie, the driving force behind her interest in earning her certification is her eagerness to help families when they need it most.

“Sometimes people just want to be heard,” Angie says. “I’m honored to help families in their time of need.”

To learn more, please contact Homeland Hospice at (717) 221-7890.




This article is re-posted with permission. We thank Gabrielle Elise Jimenez, hospice nurse, end-of-life doula, and conscious dying educator, for sharing her experiences at blog.


hourglass representing the time of our lifeHow much time do we have? Where did the time go? I wish we could go back in time. Remember that time? Time is on my side… time is not on my side. One more time… I wish I had one more time. Time waits for no one. Time flies. Wasted time. Time well spent. Time is money. Precious time. The trouble is, that we think we have time.

“All we have to decide, is what to do with the time that is given us.” ~ J.R.R. Tolkien

Have you ever sat and thought about all the things we say or have heard, relative to the time we have, the time we’ve lost, how we have spent our time and how much more is left? We do not realize how much time has been wasted, until our time left is limited. And those who are sitting at the bedside of someone whose time is short, is reminded of this in a very big way.

I recently spent some time with a widow who has been trying to clean out her husband’s belongings. Her husband had many interests and left behind a lot of things for her to go through, which in quite honesty has taken its toll. Following in his parent’s footsteps, he worked on clocks and watches and has an entire room filled with parts and tools. This was more of a hobby for him, but one he enjoyed and spent a lot of time on. The room itself is very cool, I have enjoyed my time in there as well.

Our conversation about him and the hundreds of pieces of clock supplies got us talking about time; how we spend it, how we manage it, how quickly is passes, and how precious it is. As I started to write this blog, which was inspired by our conversation, I asked her to put together some of the clock/watch tools and supplies and take a photo for me, which she graciously said she would do. This project became quite therapeutic for her. She said, “it turned my thoughts from feeling like he left me with all this stuff to deal with, to he left me with all this stuff to play with, and I am blessed with the time to explore and heal.”

Time can be our friend when we have the luxury of time. We are able to do things with less rush or urgency and put it off for later, not feeling the need to push to finish the things we have counted on having time for. And then something unexpected happens and time has been taken from us… all that time we counted on and took for granted is now gone. We do not get that back, and I know many of you can appreciate this.

What I hear often is, “I thought we would have more time,” in which I think to myself… don’t we all? In those last few hours, as I witness people at the bedside saying their goodbyes, I watch as they quickly say the years-worth of things they’ve held on to, always thinking they would have time to say them later. I imagine them all thinking, “how did it get to be “too late” so soon?”

There is a quote by Lao Tzu, “To say, ‘I don’t have time’, is like saying, ‘I don’t want to.” Think about that for a moment, allow that to really sink in. If there is someone out there, right now that is wishing to hear things from you, and you do have the chance and you do have the time to say them… imagine the comfort you would bring to their life, removing that feeling of, “they just don’t want to.”

If I could go back in time there are so many people that I wish I could say things to, but that isn’t realistic, and I am not going to beat myself up about that. But I can change things moving forward, and so can you. Say the things now, while you truly do have time. Assume you only have a window of time… take advantage of that window.