— “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly?”, My Fair Lady
I was holding my mom’s hand, singing her that Loverly song when she slipped from this world to the next. She was smiling and a tear trickled down her cheek as she took her last breath. I cherish this memory and am so happy I was there. But I wish I could have done more… My mom wanted to write a book of her life and I was going to help her, but the cancer, that beast, took her before we made much progress.
And now, I want to introduce you to an angel here on earth. Her name is Jacki Kelsch. And she makes memories come to life and dreams come true. She makes books for hospice patients.
Jacki, a scrapbooker and artist, was recently injured at work, became disabled and forced into early retirement. After several months of channel surfing and boredom, she met with her friend, Barbara Miller Johncox. Barbara is a volunteer at Life’s Doors Hospice.
That single meeting made all the difference in Jacki’s — and many others’ lives.
“It just clicked in my head — I scrapbook, and oh, my gosh, I could really be doing something here!”
Jacki got her scrapbooking buddies together and they went to work, donating time, materials — and most importantly of all, scrapbooking hands.
Then, Jacki took her idea to SCORE, a volunteer organization that helps folks get businesses started. http://www.idahotvscore.org/
“Jacki, you’ve got angels on your side,” one of the counselors said. She went to Life’s Doors Hospice and left some scrapbooks. “We’re donating these albums. It’s something we want to do for those who are dying. Their loved ones can help them put together a book of memories for them and for their loved ones.”
“Handy Hands for Hospice” is an all-volunteer, all-donated organizaton that operates under the 501 (c) (3) non-profit status of Life’s Door hospice and “we’ve done about 50 albums so far,” Jacki said, with orders coming in. “One hospice requested 100. We are overwhelmed and busy as bees.”
For Jacki, Handy Hands is a labor of love. She made a book for her friend’s mom who was in hospice. “I took the book to her. She was on death’s door, her hands resting on a pillow.” Jacki said for most of the book, her friend’s mom was silent, but “when we showed her the last picture in the scrapbook — it was her granddaughter at Easter — she looked at it and smiled ear to ear. She reached up to the scrapbook and said: ‘I made that dress.’ That’s why I do this,” Jacki said, emotion making her voice quaver. “For that moment, that woman was in heaven and all thoughts of death and dying were gone. To see that happiness, that one last smile… it’s awesome. There’s no other word for it.”
Jacki and her scrapbooking angels (“we have about 30 volunteers now, but we need 100-times that!”) supply decorated pages for family and friends to fill in the blanks, so to speak, or they can put together a 20-page album with family-supplied photos. Or you can even get a “kit.”
“We try to fill needs of theme,” Jacki said, adding that the books somehow help tell the tale of one’s life, for the one making the journey from this life to the next and for the loved ones left behind. It brings to light “some of these stories that aren’t going to be told.”
Last November, Jacki took a scrapbook album to her mother, who, at the time, lived in the Seatlle area. She had made the book about her mother’s early life and had planned to give it to her at an undetermined time in the future, but, through a series of serendipitous events, she found herself — and her book — at her mom’s house on Nov. 9th. Unbeknownst to her at the time, her mother was dying.
“I didn’t even know she was ill at the time, she’s always been a private person. I took the album to mom and we looked at the photos and visited for hours and hours.”
The book sparked memories for Jacki’s mom and she became animated telling story after story. “I got to give her her gift of memories and she showed it to everybody,” Jacki said.
“For me, to give that to others if I can — that’s what it’s all about.”
Jacki’s mother passed away on Dec. 23, 2008.
If you’d like to help Jacki and her scrapbooking angels — or become one yourself — here’s how: Handy Hands for Hospice is looking for donations, supplies and volunteers.
“You don’t have to be a seasoned scrapbooker. Just drop in, share your time and we will teach you what you need to know.”
Go to the Web site:
Or send an email:
If you want to attend a presentation on “Journaling, Scrapbooking and Handy Hands,” Jacki will be at the Idaho End of life Coalition, 8:45 to 10 a.m., Tuesday, July 21, in the Cedar Room at the Grove Hotel.
For information, call: 208-602-2371.