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The Caregiver’s Cairn: Captivating Goodbyes


Greetings one and all…

Although a spring day in Denver, the scene outside my office is reminiscent of winter—grey skies and falling snow. Springtime in the Rockies! No worries. The forecast is for 80 degrees this weekend. Soon, winter will be a distant memory. To everything there is a season and a time for every purpose, right? And for now, it is the perfect time to reflect and to write.

This past weekend, I watched the media coverage of the funeral service for our former First Lady Barbara Bush. Interestingly, I had not planned to watch the service as I had a memorial service to attend later that day. However, as I was dressing for the service, I turned on the television which revealed the Bush funeral in progress. The ritual is one I know well having studied and participated in the Anglican tradition (Episcopal Church). Despite my familiarity with the liturgy, I was captivated by the scene unfolding before my eyes.

Listening to the reflections of her family and friends, I learned so much about Barbara Bush—the person. The stories shared expanded my cursory understanding of this woman and the impact she had on her community and the world. Impressive to say the very least. Those in attendance were impressive as well. Family. Friends. Community members. Political figures representing our nation’s past, present, and future. I marveled at the woman who prompted the gathering of such an extraordinary group of people—people who felt compelled to honor her life and to acknowledge her death.

As well-conceived and artfully conducted ritual is designed to do, the funeral service captivated my heart and soul. The ritual resonated in my bones. The images, the words, and the music sparked an unexpected emotional response. Although I didn’t have a personal relationship with Barbara Bush or her family, I could empathize with their loss and their grief because I have been there and done that! I remembered the funerals for my mom, my dad, and my brother. My recollections generated a wave of grief that served to enhance my compassion for all those who had known and loved Barbara Bush. Knowing the intensity of their pain, I prayed for all who are grieving her death. I prayed for comfort, peace, strength, courage, and healing.

Later that day, I had a similar reaction at the memorial service for a dear gentleman in my community. He was not an internationally known political figure. His service evidently did not warrant media coverage. However, his life and his death profoundly touched those who were blessed to know and love him. Consequently, we will grieve his absence mightily. Hence, grief is one of the great equalizers in this life—a painful reminder of our common humanity. It matters not what you do, what you accomplish, or what title you hold. If you choose to love, to invest yourself in other people, you risk grieving the loss of those you love. Perhaps our common experience of loss can also motivate us to courageously companion those who grieve as we learn to recognize ourselves in the tears of others. May it be so.

Thanks so much for stopping by today. I invite you to share your perspective on the caregiving journey. Make suggestions. Pose questions. Provide resources. Share your story. Coming together and sharing, we will improve the process for one and all. I look forward to continuing the conversation next month. Til then, enjoy the moment and blessings to you and yours...Jane W. Barton

Do you have a question for Jane? Please email us at and we will be in touch soon!


Jane W. Barton, MTS, MASM, CSA is a passionate speaker, writer, and listener. Jane is the founder of Cardinal, LLC, a consulting firm that provides educational programs to assist people in confronting the daunting challenges posed by aging,  serious illness and disability. Jane is well-versed in the areas of grief and bereavement, caregiving, hospice and palliative care, change and transition, and spirituality and health. She presents innovative, transformational programs to community members, healthcare providers, pastoral caregivers, clergy, funeral service providers, and national audiences to improve the experience of people and families challenged by serious, advanced, or terminal illnesses. Previously, Jane served as Director of Education for a hospice and palliative care educational institution. She has also served as a hospice chaplain and bereavement facilitator in hospice and palliative care. Jane is a certified Spiritual Director as well as a Certified Senior Advisor. In a former life, she worked as a financial services representative and an exploration petroleum geologist and manager.

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