Friday, September 23, was one of those unfortunate dates in North Texas where two worthy non-profits clashed in scheduling. No, there were no physical fisticuffs. But there was a definite Solomon choice of which one to attend and thereby support.
While The Family Place’s Trailblazer Luncheon was being held at the Omni Hotel Dallas honoring Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson in her final days representing Texas’s 30th congressional district in the U.S. House of Representatives, the Each Moment Matters Luncheon co-chaired by Tucker Enthoven and her mother Julie Ford was taking place to support Forefront Living’s Faith Presbyterian Hospice at the Hilton Anatole.
The Each Moment Matters event had an additional challenge. It seems that featured speaker Melissa “Little House on the Prairie” Gilbert had been replaced by Dr. BJ Miller.
Tucker admitted that the change of speakers worked. In addition to being a man who had overcome the loss of part of his arm and both his legs, BJ was a recognized authority on palliative and hospice care.
As the crowd grew outside the Chantilly Ballroom, honorees (the late Ben Casey, Sandra Esquivel, Walter Levy, Richard Miles, Jadona Side, Brenda Snitzer and Darrell Thompson) were featured in life-size, freestanding cutouts on one side of the lobby. A tree of paper butterflies was available for individual purchase, and Kay Sim snagged a yellow one. Kay’s daughter Stacey Walker and Paige Locke purchased butterflies, too.
As the doors opened to the ballroom and guests like 2021 Each Moment Matters Co-Chair Christie Carter, Margie and Ray Francis, Candace Winslow, Cheryl Joyner, Christy Coltrin, Pat Harloe, Susan Farris, Beth Thoele, Leslie Diers, Patti Flowers and Kern Wildenthal took their places, WFAA Senior Reporter Jason Whitely welcomed the crowd. Jason disclosed that just minutes before, he and his TV crew had come across the lobby where he interviewed Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who revealed that he planned to announce that he’s running for president. Measuring the response of the crowd, it sounded like politics was not the favored subject du jour.
Despite the subject matter of the day being dealing with life’s end, a moment of surprising levity resulted from Forefront Living Chaplain Rev. Jarrod A. Cooper’s invocation. After asking all to bow their heads, his blessing lasted less than 10 seconds: “Over this meal we simply say ‘Lord, thank you in Jesus’ name. Amen.” That was it. Amazed and seemingly relieved by his brevity, the crowd laughed and some applauded.
After Forefront Living CEO Tim Mallad updated the guests that since the last in-person event, Home Services had seen a 48% rise in its services, while the Simmons In-Patient Center “rose to 1,250 individuals [serving] per years, or a 45% increase.”
As a result of the 2021 funds raised through the luncheon, the following programs were supported:
- 4,994 days of charitable hospice care
- Specialized grief support to 586 children
- 1,585 therapeutic massages and
- 1,942 music therapy visits.
This year’s luncheon would provide support for unfunded patients, children’s bereavement services and specialized services known as the “Faith Difference,” including music therapy, massage therapy and pet therapy.
After a brief break for lunch, BJ took his place in the easy chair on stage at 12:35 for the day’s talk. He told the group that he had felt immediately at home upon his arrival the day before and had been very impressed with Forefront Living because it stresses unique programs that are hard to create and maintain.
His relationship with life and death began at the age of 19 when he was a sophomore at Princeton. Following Thanksgiving holiday, he and some friends were horsing around with a parked commuter train that ended up with 11,000 volts of electricity streaming through his body, resulting in a near-death experience and BJ becoming a trilateral amputee.
Through a series of slides he explained how there is a “beautiful link between life and death.” He noted that
- Aesthetics are important in healthcare. Florence Nightingale had recognized the power of fresh-cut flowers, open windows and even having the floor waxed for patients.
- “At some point some of us are not fixable. My wholeness was a state of mind.”
- “We as human beings can change how we look at things.”
- “There’s a big difference between discernment and judgment. Hold back on judgment.”
- “Everything is not possible. Let the truth be the truth.”
- “We don’t know everything. That’s okay… Be careful and let the unknown be unknown.”
- “The myth of independence — Has there ever been a person who has never needed someone? I can be relatively independent, but there is no shame in needing help.”
- “We are the dying.”
- “Grief is good. You can move with it or deny it.” When he was 20 he lost his sister to suicide in 2004. Through her death he learned that he needed to grieve. “It didn’t feel good but it helped me keep her in me.”
- “You cannot separate life and death.”