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Steve Jacobsen: Honoring the Mysteries and Tangibles of Life and Death

Man describes what the late Gail Rink and Hospice of Santa Barbara mean to him

By Steve Jacobsen, Hospice of Santa Barbara | Published on 02.17.2011

When Rory Rye walked up to the porch of the Linden House in Carpinteria in December, he was wearing a black- and red-checkered untucked wool shirt over his jeans. A tall man, he turned to face the crowd that had gathered to celebrate our annual “Light Up a Life” ceremony and began to describe what the services of Hospice of Santa Barbara have meant to him and his family.

He first spoke of a son that had been ill as a child some years ago, and how then-executive director Gail Rink of Hospice of Santa Barbara came to support them until their son died. His family began attending the ceremony every year to honor him. One year they invited Rink over for a spaghetti dinner after the ceremony. They all enjoyed being together so much, that it became an annual tradition.

In 2008, Rye’s wife, Brooke, died. Rink was in touch during that time and attended the memorial service.

Rye stood on that porch to say he was grateful for what Rink and Hospice of Santa Barbara mean to his family.

He closed by explaining the significance of his black and red wool shirt. It seems that at one of those spaghetti dinners, Rink said that one of the things she wanted to do after retirement was to move to the Northwest and find a lumberjack with whom she could “spend some time.” That became an annual joke between Rye and Rink, who died last July before she could get to the Northwest to find that lumberjack. Rye was wearing the lumberjack’s shirt to honor her.

Rye’s story captures much of what Hospice of Santa Barbara is all about.

On the one hand, we deal with the great mysteries of living and dying. On the other, we honor the very tangible signs of goodness, meaning and love that we experience — white paper stars hung from evergreen trees, spaghetti dinners with friends and family, stories about lumberjack shirts, smiles and tears on a December evening.

Rink was all about trusting the mysteries, and she was all about the nitty-gritty tangibles of life. Honoring the mysteries and the tangibles is what we’ve been about since the beginning.

We are now serving 360 people a month — who have someone facing a life-threatening illness or grieving the loss of someone they loved — through our offices, and many more in schools, homes and medical facilities throughout our community. We are doing it without any funds from government or insurance companies, relying only on past and present donors.

I am thankful for Rye’s testimony and all those who share their stories about finding meaning in life. I know all of our volunteers, staff and board members share my feeling. It is an extraordinary privilege to be doing this work. Thanks to all of you who make it possible.

For more information about what we can do for you or someone you know, click here or call 805.563.8820.

— Steve Jacobsen is executive director of Hospice of Santa Barbara. Call Hospice of Santa Barbara at 805.563.8820 for a schedule of adult and children’s groups, or to make a donation. Become a fan of Hospice of Santa Barbara on Facebook.

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