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Horizon Chaplain Jessi shares wisdom, empathy with high school psych class

It was back to school for the second year in a row for Horizon Home Care & Hospice Chaplain Jessi Smedal. She was once again requested to join a psychology class at Living Word Lutheran in Jackson, WI to share her thoughts and expertise during their unit on aging and dying.

Quietly but powerfully, Jessi led the students through an exploration of those topics, and shared with them what her job entails as a Chaplain to hospice patients and their families.

Jessi initiated the class by sharing various quotes on death. These were conversation starters and fodder for contemplation as the students then assembled small groups and discussed not only their thoughts about death, but the factors that affect how we as a society address it.

With the students now fully engaged, Jessi defined hospice and her role as a Chaplain. As she described, she acts as a guide in the twilight of life, transcending religious boundaries. She’s there to provide solace, comfort, and support, irrespective of faith.

She approaches patients with empathy and sensitivity, looking to meet them where they are on their individual journey. Jessi asks questions to help shape their goals in working together, like, “Is there anything on your heart today? Is there anything weighing on you?”

Answers to those questions help chaplain and patient navigate a path toward peace. Jessi aids patients in confronting their pasts and reconciling their emotions. She can encourage a patient to seek forgiveness, or extend it where needed. Sometimes she can even help repair relationships and make sure an estranged family member can connect one final time with their loved one. Whatever Jessi can do to help eliminate spiritual distress and achieve closure is what she endeavors to do.

A hospice chaplain is there not only for the patients, but also their families, who may experience the profound weight of anticipatory grief. She lends them compassion and support as they navigate their new grief journey.

For Jessi, who started as a Lutheran social worker and has spent 15 years as a chaplain, this work is a calling. "It's what I always wanted; I just didn't know it was called 'chaplaincy.'" Her journey has been one of self-discovery and profound purpose, and her dedication shines brightly in the lives she touches.

As time with the Living Word Lutheran psychology class wound down, Jessi had simple reminders for the students. We need to cherish our loved ones while they’re here. Listen to others’ stories, have meaningful and even difficult conversations now instead of later, and don’t waste the opportunities you have to make connections. When the inevitable day comes that our loved ones pass, remember that it’s not about death—it’s about celebrating life.


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