Offering ‘spiritual care’ to the dying

Way back in January 2005, I covered a forum about how to raise children with religious values.

One of the panelists was a woman named Mary Wasacz, who I learned was a “spiritual care coordinator” for “Hospice & Palliative Care of Westchester.”: That’s her on the right.

I was intrigued.

tjndc5-5b5nbuylnw48olnrezi_layout.jpgI wound up meeting with Mary soon after to discuss her fascinating job. She meets with hospice patients — people who are facing terminal diseases — and helps them to deal with their spiritual and religious crises, dilemmas, fears and anxieties.

She prays with them if they so desire.

She helps them, in order words, to get ready to meet their maker.

I asked Mary if I might be allowed to tag along when she meets a few patients. She said she would ask. She was enthusiastic about the idea.

Over the past two years, I’ve watched and listened in as Mary has met with five patients or the relatives of people who were dying or had just died.

There were sometimes long gaps between when Mary could find patients who would allow me and photographer Stuart Bayer to come. But Mary persisted and we waited.

There were other delays that I won’t bore you with. But the project is finally read to run — this Sunday, the 28th.

I hope you’ll give it a read. Mary is a person worth getting to know…

Gary Stern

Gary Stern covered education in the Lower Hudson Valley for several years during the early 1990s. Now's he back on the beat. He believes that schools are one of the main reasons that people live around here and that educational issues -- from curriculum to financing -- are among the most challenging things that journalists can write about. He continues to be amazed by the complexity of educational jargon. Gary got his B.A. at SUNY Buffalo and his M.A. from the University of Missouri Journalism School (where his master's thesis was about the best ways to cover education). He lives in White Plains with his wife and two sons, who attend public schools.