1) Could you share your connection to Empty Arms and how you first discovered this organization?
I met Carol many years ago when we both had young families that happened to be in the same classes at the same school. We found that we had a great deal in common. It was a few years before I understood what Carol did and how she, “made up” her job! I volunteered the first year of the Syrup Stampede and I fell in LOVE with this community! I am an end of life doula and also a bereaved parent and when 1 of the TWO employee positions at Empty Arms needed filling, I was fortunate enough to come on board! Yes, you did read that correctly! Empty Arms has 2 employees in total encompassing 1 full time position!
2) What motivates you to stay involved?
There are so many reasons! First, Hannah and Lucy are my star babies that I cannot hold like my earthly babies. The work that I am honored to do for Empty Arms helps me feel more connected to Hannah & Lucy.
Next, I was alone in my pain and the toll of carrying that burden caused me 18 years of suffering. When I am bedside with a bereaved family or facilitate a support group, I feel immeasurable gratitude to be of service to them.
And lastly, I hold hope for every single person we serve and there are so many. This community safety net needs all of our connected hands in order to lift up families. I am still making new connections to help strengthen our grasp to one another. It fills my cup to do this valuable work, to say the least.
3) What do you do for a living?
I currently work with Empty Arms as the Project Coordinator and Development Director; I’m a bedside companion and I facilitate support groups: Twin Loss Support Group & I co-facilitate the Miscarriage and Pregnancy Loss Support Group. I work far less in my end of life job right now because of concerns for safety with the pandemic. My work brings me into clients’ homes and that is just not possible right now. I look forward to providing that service to families again in the future! I also run mindfulness meditation groups for sexual assault survivors and hope to return again later this year.
4) How do you spend your personal time and what do you like to do for fun?
Plants and I are inseparable. In my home, the indoors and outdoors gets quite blurry! I take walks in the woods and long, slow runs to process my thoughts. Yoga and meditation keep me grounded. I love to sing and dance and I miss live, raw music so terribly! My teenagers and I are working from home together and they are not psyched about hearing me break out into song or catching me kicking up my heels in the living room to my own impromptu dance party, so that’s fun! I also love to coach Girls on The Run and this March will be my 12th season! My husband and four living children keep me humble, grateful and full of joy. My three boys (24, 21 & 17) nudged me into dystopian & science fiction again (I liked it as a teen) when they were in middle school and I can’t stop reading this genre! My 13 year old daughter loves dogs more than life itself so we have been watching dog & puppy videos all quarantine long and it has been the greatest source of joy and giggly fun! We have an 11 year old fluff named Birdie, who truly is LEARNING NEW TRICKS! Dogs will save us all.
5) It’s odd to some that we share tears and laughter in this line of work! Any funny stories or anecdotes you’re willing to share?
I recently companioned bedside with a family and the birthing person had just been to the salon to have their hair, nails, and eyelashes done. Hours later they had not expected to be taken by ambulance to the hospital with a baby born too soon to survive. I was holding the baby in my arms and noticed something on his perfect head that seemed out of place. The parent reached over and picked it up and put it in her hand to inspect it. She realized it was a large clump of her eyelash extensions and decided to look in the mirror for the first time in 30 hours. Hysterical laughter gave way to tears and then more laughter. We laughed so hard and took so many ‘Glamour Shots’ while they held their baby boy. We both ugly-laugh-cried right through our masks and down our faces! This parent and I still text these pictures back & forth and all the while, thinking about the relief of laughter amidst such heartbreak.
As a very important aside not to be ignored or forgotten, working alongside Carol McMurrich is pretty phenomenal! You never know when that gal will crush the workday tension by breaking into song and host her own impromptu dance party too! Laughter, song, & dance heals!
6) What are YOUR HOPES for this year?
I hope for safe face to face time with all the people that I sorely miss without any barriers between us or fears of illness!