‘Finding God as Companion in Navigating Life’s Final Journey’ to be topic of retreat at St. Anne’s Shrine
St. Anne’s Shrine in Isle LaMotte will offer a new retreat Oct. 29-31, “Finding God as Companion in Navigating Life’s Final Journey.”
The retreat will be led by Pat O’Connor, author of “Navigating Life’s Final Journey: Conversations, Choices, Resources.”
This three-day retreat is designed to create a safe space to learn about, think about and pray about life’s final chapter. The intended audience is people who are ready to begin to think about how they might want their end-of-life to go or how to help support and advocate for their loved ones as they approach end-of-life. Participants will discuss ways in which the presence of God might be found along the journey.
The retreat, built on the theme “Finding God as Companion in Navigating Life’s Final Journey: Conversations, Choices, Resources,” will be held with the belief that thinking about end-of-life does not bring it on but helps in making decisions from a place which is more objective than the crisis that might occur if persons are caught unprepared.
“If we have not had time to think about this from a more peaceful, safe place we are often just caught in the whirlwind of the medical world where our decisions are made as a default, by medical people,” said O’Connor, who has a master’s degree in nursing and is board certified as an adult nurse practitioner and hospice palliative care specialist. “Thinking about our wishes and goals and sharing them before a crisis occurs helps a person live their own life up to the end and makes it easier for those who might be asked to make decisions for us if we become unable to speak for ourselves.”
Some end-of-life decisions to contemplate would be what level of medical care would we want under what circumstances. This would include, for example, if we have irreversible illness, for how long would we want to continue to medically try to prolong our lives. Might there be any circumstances in which we would want to allow a natural end to occur? Where would we want to spend our final days? In what ways would we want to be supported spiritually and emotionally? Have we thought about what we want for burial/cremation, funeral, will?
“This retreat will allow the attendee time to begin to think about these topics, prepare to have conversations with their loved ones and learn about ways they might wish to document their wishes to have them made clear to their family, other loved ones and medical providers,” O’Connor said. “By preparing ahead of time for yourself and your loved ones, there is a better chance of facing and living end-of-life with meaning, enjoyment, and greater dignity. The alternative, unfortunately, often is being trapped in a medical maze without the knowledge and foresight required to get out.”
By learning the questions to ask medical providers, understanding choices, having conversations with loved ones and documenting wishes, the “final chapter of life can be on the path you choose,” she said.
O’Connor has spent more than four decades working with people with serious and terminal illness. She began her official hospice career as head nurse of the first free-standing hospice in the United States in 1980, the year it opened. After six years there teaching the science and art of hospice to staff and other medical professionals as hospices began to open across the country, she spent time working at and directing community hospices.
As a primary care nurse practitioner for 20 years, she had a sub-specialty of hospice/palliative care and worked as a consultant for other primary care providers, taught primary-care level palliative care and cared for her own patients through palliative and hospice care in the office and in their homes. Most recently, she was part of a specialty palliative care team in New Hampshire.
“It is and always has been my passion to make end-of-life as comfortable and meaningful as possible, to empower people to make their own choices at end-of-life, to honor and respect their wishes and values and be present in whatever manner they need,” she said.
For more information, visit her website at patocwriter.com.
“Approaching the end of life can be filled with fear and anxiety. Learning to plan for death has some practical realities as well as spiritual realities. We hope this retreat provides insights into both,” said Edmundite Father Brian Cummings, spiritual director of St. Anne’s Shrine. “We hope the retreat provides a foundation for living the last stages of one’s life with grace. Recognizing God’s presence throughout the final journey of our life provides reassurance that in death life does not end, but it is transformed.”
The suggested offering for the retreat — at the shrine on the shores of Lake Champlain — is $300 and includes lodging and meals.
For more information, call Joe Gallagher at 802-928-3362.