A remembrance of a feathery touch
A luminosity, a clarity of light
A gleam, a ray, a shard of impossible radiance
A presence blessed
A suffusion of joy beyond transcendence
Peace unto your very soul
Phyllis T. Highbridge
February 13, 2011
My mother died unexpectedly from complications post-operative. She spent several days in the ICU and died less than 14 hours after being moved to a step-down unit. The events of that hospitalization were tragic. After my mother passed away, we were handed her belongings in two large clear plastic bags. I’ll never forget holding on to what was left of my mother as I took the elevator down four floors, walked through the lobby, onto the sky walk, and into the parking garage. I saw her purple winter coat and all that was hers through the clear plastic, as did every stranger I encountered on the long walk to the car. Even though I was carrying this oversized bag, I had never felt emptier.
None of the doctors, nurses, or staff knew about my mother’s life or that she was an artist and a poet. While the nurses and others were incredibly compassionate in the care they provided to my mother, leaving the hospital without her was unbearable. The last thing I remember was all the world seeing my mother’s belongings and how very wrong that was.
Three weeks after my mother’s death, I read about two excellent programs in Ireland and Australia. The concept of handover bags was pioneered by the Irish Hospice Foundation Friendly Hospitals Program in Ireland. Incorporating the use of the handover bag to bereaved families and friends promotes a dignified and sensitive way of returning the deceased patient’s personal belongings. The Sunshine Coast Hospital and Health Service in Queensland, Australia, was inspired by this concept and created handover bags for the families they serve. As a recipient of receiving my mother’s belongings in a plastic bag, inspired by Ireland and Australia’s programs, I was determined to change this practice in the U.S.
Incorporating my mother’s artwork and the concept developed in Ireland, I created Transitional Belongings Bags. How a family member receives the personal effects of a loved one who has passed is memorable. Receiving personal possessions back from caring staff in a Transitional Belongings Bag is an empathetic way to show grieving families that their loved one’s belongings are respected and sympathy for their loss conveyed.