Martha & Mary offers shelter from the storm

POULSBO — Even though more Americans are living longer, death and dying remain constants in the circle of life, often creating extraordinary levels of stress on individuals and families.

As part of its ever-changing mission, Martha & Mary Lutheran Services has expanded its services to make those last days as comfortable and peaceful as possible.

“People need a place where they can feel comfortable and be surrounded by family and friends during those times,” explained Martha & Mary Fund Development Director Rob Gelder before the dedication of two hospice rooms June 30.

Families need a place where they come and stay with their loved ones for however long they choose and feel a sense of peace and serenity, Gelder continued.

“We’ve designed these rooms with everything we thought a family might need during these times,” he said.

Construction of the rooms was sparked and spearheaded by Martha & Mary Chaplain Ernie McCluskey more than two years ago.

“It’s taken us more than two years, but we finally got it done and this is definitely an area that we’ll be focusing on more in the future,” he remarked.

For McCluskey, Thursday’s dedication was the culmination of an effort by the entire staff to help families during these difficult times.

“We asked ourselves, ‘How can we create a pleasing environment for those who are dying as well as their families at this critical time when there are so many stresses pulling at them?’” McCluskey said.

One of the keys to that process was a dedicated effort to bring every aspect of the dying process together and address the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of all involved, he noted.

Without McCluskey, the rooms might never have come to completion, said Martha & Mary Director Chad Solvie.

“Oftentimes at night when I was going home, I’d see Ernie in there working to get it done,” Solvie recalled. “He’s done a yeoman’s job on this project.”

Even though 60 percent of the patients who come to the center return home, there are those who won’t, he said.

“We want to do whatever we can to make it as comfortable and peaceful place as we can,” he continued. “We want this to be a positive memory.”

For those reasons, the rooms have been given a special name, which was selected by the center’s staff, McCluskey explained.

“Their Norwegian name translates to ‘angels are watching over me,’” he said.

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