May 17, 2002

Remembering ceremony to be held May 19

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Colleen Conway-Welch, dean of the School of Nursing, awards Lori Burch Ferranti the Founder's Medal for the School of Nursing during the commencement ceremony. (photo by Dana Johnson)

Remembering ceremony to be held May 19

The Children’s Hospital Bereavement Committee is sponsoring the fifth annual “A Time for Remembering” ceremony on Sunday, May 19 from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the University Club.

The ceremony is for family, friends, and VCH to remember and honor children who died while being cared for at Vanderbilt. All staff members are encouraged to attend.

During treatment, it is not unusual for families to grow close to the hospital staff who care for their child. Following a child’s death, the families often lose touch with these people with whom they’ve shared so much.

“The bond between families and staff is sometimes closer than that between family members,” explained Yvonne Bernard, R.N., chair of the bereavement committee. “It is sometimes a nurse holding a mother’s hand as she receives bad news. A housekeeper may become a confidant to a family, miles from home and trying to cope with a child’s illness.”

The event allows the staff to thank the parents and the families for what they have shared during their experience at VCH. Even as these families are trying to understand their child’s illness, their grace and faith often serve as inspiration to the staff of the hospital, explained Janet Cross, director of Child Life Services.

“Death is difficult and this event is cathartic, both for the parents and the families,” said Cross. “It offers some measure of closure.”

Families attending the ceremony are given a booklet of more than 60 personal reflections from anonymous staff of VCH, offering their unique perspective on caring for sick children and how the events that have shaped these families’ lives have also impacted them as caregivers.

"Many times, I feel like the people we are supposed to be helping do for us more than they will ever realize," wrote one staff member. Another wrote, "The lives of these little ones may be short, but knowing them, sometimes only for a few hours, leaves us changed."

Although there is much emotion tied to the annual ceremony, Ray Nelle Dyer, chaplain at VCH, feels that all participants benefit from being part of the event.

“We leave encouraged and grateful,” said Dyer. “Grateful for the event, grateful for the work we do, and grateful for the privilege of being invited into some of the sacred spaces and experiences of people who come to Vanderbilt.”