Scott Simon says Goodbye, I love you in 140 Characters

arspilka August 1st, 2013, 6:53 PM
Abby R. Spilka, Hospice Volunteer
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twitter logoI don’t Tweet personally. I understand that Twitter is a powerful social media tool and its uses are boundless… from announcing a revolution to writing disparagingly about the name of a celebrity baby. This past weekend, Twitter entered the national conversation about death and heralded a new chapter in communication.


The Twittersphere and the mainstream media were transfixed by NPR’s Scott Simon tweeting from his mother’s hospital room post-surgery until the day she died. I have been wondering all week how I feel about what he did, and I still don’t…

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How Objects Can Define a Moment

arspilka September 29th, 2012, 7:15 PM
Abby R. Spilka, Hospice Volunteer
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letterObjects tell stories. They tell us who we are, where we’re from, and how and why we exist in the world. There is great power in objects and I have experienced this power first-hand in the last day.

Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, has just concluded. It is a recent custom in less traditional households to send New Year’s cards.  My dad and step-mom have sent Rosh Hashanah cards to their collective six kids for as long as I can remember.

I did not open the one they sent in 2001.…

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How to Change the Atmosphere Without Casting Judgment

arspilka September 18th, 2012, 9:00 PM
Abby R. Spilka, Hospice Volunteer
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http://www.public-domain-image.com (public domain image)On a recent bright Saturday afternoon, I made a vigil call to New York Methodist Hospital. The patient was an elderly woman whose heart was failing.

When I arrived, a friend of hers was waiting to enter her room. This friend knew the patient from church meetings and said “Dahlia” was famous for her hugs. Dahlia’s friend, who is a nurse, told me some lovely stories about Dahlia’s spiritual, financial, and gustatorial generosity. As she reminisced, two more visitors arrived: one of Dahlia’s daughters (also a nurse) and another friend.

Having learned…

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Starting From Square One

arspilka March 19th, 2012, 9:59 PM
Abby R. Spilka, Hospice Volunteer
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I haven’t had to spend much time in nursing homes.  I have nothing against them personally. My reaction to them can be traced to my first visit to one when I went to see a schizophrenic great aunt in a home in rural Minnesota. Psychiatric hospital circa late 1970s middle of nowhere. Can you picture it?

Like virtually every other element of our lives, 35 years has brought great advances to how nursing home residents are care for. Everything from the décor in the hallways to the training of the staff…

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When You Meet a Stranger’s Husband Again

arspilka January 7th, 2012, 4:42 PM
Abby R. Spilka, Hospice Volunteer
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Nearly a year ago, when I wrote the blog When You Meet a Stranger’s Husband, I noted that I was rarely with family when keeping vigil. During the week I met with Ferdinand, I was fairly convinced that we would not see each other again. I was naïve to think this way since we live in the small town of Park Slope, Brooklyn.

Because the first anniversary of Isabella’s death is this week (Jan. 15), I wanted to talk about my unplanned reunion with Ferdinand. It happed on August 15; seven…

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How Not To Write A Eulogy

arspilka December 9th, 2011, 6:03 PM
Abby R. Spilka, Hospice Volunteer
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There is a long-standing joke in my family. At the funeral of a guy, the [insert clergy member of choice here] approaches the casket to begin the eulogy. He hesitates. Pauses. Fidgets a little and finally says, “His brother was worse.”

I have a pet peeve regarding eulogies. It makes me absolutely livid when the person officiating defines the person by her illness, rather than by her accomplishments, or, even worse, when a person is remembered in negative terms.

This brand of eulogy was given for an aunt of mine who had…

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Subway Encounter With Sadness

arspilka November 21st, 2011, 7:13 PM
Abby R. Spilka, Hospice Volunteer
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griefOne of the best reasons to love New York City is the opportunity to invent relationships with strangers. Take your local coffee cart guy. You see each other five days a week, and he knows you as “small decaf regular and a plain croissant.” When you don’t show up for a few days he asks if you’re feeling better. Some days it feels as if his is the only attention you get. This economic relationship is strong and infinite.

Then there are the people you meet on the subway, who are…

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A Sister’s Eulogy

arspilka October 31st, 2011, 11:06 PM
Abby R. Spilka, Hospice Volunteer
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On a frigid Halloween night, sipping hot chocolate and wondering why anyone actually cares about Kim Kardashian’s 72 days of marriage, I was surveying Facebook, and saw that my friend Ivy posted the eulogy read by Steve Jobs’ sister, author, and English professor Mona Simpson. In it, Ms. Simpson wrote of meeting him for the first time (he was adopted and searched her out), their relationship over the years, and the end of his journey.

I don’t know when exactly my tears started to flow. I don’t know if it was…

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On the Death of Steve Jobs

arspilka October 11th, 2011, 11:00 PM
Abby R. Spilka, Hospice Volunteer
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When Apple co-founder Steve Jobs died last week after a long battle with pancreatic cancer, there were many articles and blogs written about his contributions to the improvement of our civilization, the way he revolutionized how we communicate, listen to music, and consume technology. He was lauded for his understanding of the marketplace, creating shareholder value, and fabulous sense of design.

What I found most interesting, however, were his views of death, which he shared with Stanford graduates in 2005, after his original diagnosis. Now when he spoke to the students…

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Wake Me Up When September Ends

arspilka September 2nd, 2011, 5:17 PM
Abby R. Spilka, Hospice Volunteer
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My experience on September 11 has been well documented in the media, whether in an interview that took place later that morning in which the reporter’s characterization of me went something like: “said Abby Spilka, in a highly emotional state one hour after the attacks” to the time I was interviewed by Channel 9 News with the screen identification “Eyewitness to Terror.” I have given testimony to the Columbia University 9/11 Narrative and Memory Project and written about it for Museum News. I have blogged about it for the Museum…

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