Northwest Colorado Health hospice volunteer creates personalized art for families
Steamboat Springs — Teneil Jayne is no stranger to loss or the power art can have to provide comfort to those in pain.
Last May, Jayne found herself watching a good friend in her early 30s with two young children enter hospice while battling ovarian cancer.
“She was completely aware that she was passing away,” Jayne said. “It’s a real mind game when that happens.”
Jayne spent two weeks by her friend, Shantelle Thomas’s, side in a Denver hospice facility, and the two friends found some peace through artwork, a passion of Jayne’s.
Jayne and her friend worked on pages from adult coloring books, finishing and framing six pieces for Thomas to pass on to her daughter.
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“Instead of laying there being sad, she was doing something for her daughter,” Jayne said. “I think art is an incredible expression tool. We started doing art every day. It kind of allowed her to make her mark on the world.”
After losing Thomas, Jayne returned to Steamboat Springs with the experience heavy on her heart and a newfound desire to help other families facing a loss.
“I saw the impact that art had on her family, and I really wanted to share that with the Steamboat community — my family,” Jayne said.
She began volunteering with Northwest Colorado Health’s Hospice and Palliative Care program as a bereavement volunteer, a person who helps families adjust for 13 months after a loss.
“You hang out with the family that’s left behind,” Jayne said. “It could be errands, going for a walk in the park or going to dinner and not talking. You are just whatever you need to be.”
Not long after beginning her volunteer work, Jayne found herself losing yet another young friend, Natalie Phelps, this time to a heart attack related to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, something more likely to affect much older adults.
Remembering the positive impact personal art had had on Thomas’ family, Jayne asked Phelps’ mother if it was all right to take some flowers following her daughter’s service last fall.
Jayne took the flowers, pulled them apart and pressed them, creating a framed butterfly made of petals.
“It’s very precious to me,” said Martha Phelps, while looking at the framed piece of art displayed in her Gunnison home. “It’s something that represents a time I went through.”
Phelps, who spent 18 years living in Craig, said she knew Jayne as a child, adding she was quick to step up and help following Natalie’s death last October.
“She loves to take care of people and do things for people,” Phelps said.
Since giving that first pressed flower butterfly to Phelps, Jayne has begun collecting petals and making art pieces for families involved in Northwest Colorado Health’s hospice program.
Staff and volunteers at the organization already try to attend memorial services of clients, when invited, and now, attendees ask permission to retrieve a few flowers for Jayne to use.
The goal is to give the butterflies to families on the one-year anniversary of losing a loved one.
“It’s to let them know we’re thinking of them,” said Adrienne Hearne, Northwest Colorado Health’s home health social worker.
“Teneil has been such an asset since she started volunteering with us,” Hearne said. “She’s had a lot of experience with loss, recently, and she’s chosen to channel that into a really healthy outlet to give back to our community.”
Phelps said the butterfly is a special reminder of her daughter and a memorial at which friends and family gather to share memories.
“You can’t keep the flowers. They die and fall apart,” Phelps said. “This is a very special memory from that time.”
Jayne said her experience volunteering for Northwest Colorado Health has inspired new ideas, including holding a class to teach other volunteers how to create pressed flower art or starting a bereavement art class for people who have lost a loved one to explore art creation as an outlet for their emotions.
“There are some great possibilities,” she said.
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