As a crisis care RN in ER, I watched families courageously care for loved ones after death in tragic and unexpected circumstances. I made it my practice to invite families into the resuscitation area after a death, offering a warm washcloth to partner, parent, or child. It was beautiful to witness the intuitive care these grieving family members gave, as they gently wash their loved one’s face and hands. Though I know this can not be easy, I never heard any regrets: “We cared for him, after the accident.” “I was there. I loved her to the end.” “I washed his beautiful face, for the last time.” It is my hope that the One Washcloth project will offer this healing experience to many.
I have been in the medical field for nineteen years. I began my career as a Home Health Aide for the Visiting Nurse Association of Boston, where I developed many close bonds with the infirm, the dying and their families. The last fifteen years I have worked as an RN. It has been during the last seven years while working in hospice that much of my focus shifted to the inalienable rights of families to care for their own deceased. The majority of people in our society are not aware of their rights regarding caring for the dead. The mission of One Washcloth is to reintroduce this ancient art in a simple, nonthreatening way. I believe that the ramifications of such a shift in our societal funerary practices could be overwhelmingly positive.
Susan, Rochelle, and Lynn are Registered Nurses with years of collective experience in hospice, mental health, and public health nursing, across the USA and Canada. Sharing a common concern for the families they serve, they envisioned One Washcloth as a means of inviting families to experience the healing benefits of care for a loved one after death.
One Washcloth Founders
Santa Barbara, California
In my career as a hospice nurse and as the mother of 3 children, I have learned the importance of allowing people to do for themselves as much as possible. To do for others can take away their sense of pride, ownership, and accomplishment. One Washcloth is an example of a tool loved ones can use with very little need for assistance. At the time of loss, the tangible task of wiping the brow of a loved one can create tender, lasting memories.