by Mark Arni
The heart of Ohio Presbyterian Retirement Services (OPRS) exists in its mission to provide older adults with caring and quality services toward the enhancement of physical, mental and spiritual well-being. As an organization rooted in faith, our desire to provide spiritual well-being encompasses more than programs and chapel services. In fact, some of our most powerful spiritual practices are led by those other than our chaplains and spiritual care coordinators. One such practice is the “Procession of Honor” given for residents who pass away.
Residents deserve honor from the moment they arrive to the moment they leave. We believe that each person has the right to depart with the same dignity and respect as when they entered our care. So when residents pass away at one of our senior living communities, they are lovingly escorted out the front entrance in a way that both honors their memory and acknowledges the grief of those left behind.
In the hours leading up to a resident’s death, a “comfort cart” is provided just outside the resident’s door. The cart holds items such as snacks, beverages, devotionals, Bibles, pamphlets, shawls, blankets, a portable CD player and music. The intent is to help family members address practical needs as well as provide comfort as they hold vigil with their loved ones.
After a resident passes and the funeral director arrives to transfer the body to the funeral home, a pall is placed over the deceased resident’s body and a procession through the hallway begins. Two staff members who have lovingly cared for that resident lead the procession in front of the body ringing hand chimes while family members follow behind. Other employees line the halls in quiet respect as the body passes by. Once outside near the funeral vehicle, an employee offers a prayer of thanksgiving and comfort, followed by shared exchanges of love and grief between staff and family.
One of the most important things about this expression of honor is that it is driven by the staff who works closest with our residents. Regardless of the time of day or the day of the week, the staff on duty always comes together to honor each and every resident in this way. It is our desire that the essence of OPRS and its spiritual foundation can be experienced in all aspects of life from beginning to end.
Mark Arni serves as chaplain at the Westminster-Thurber Community, an OPRS senior living community located in Columbus, Ohio.