“Hey, is that an Angel at the Door?”
A friend of mine has entered what may be his final dance with AIDS.
Whenever he has the opportunity to share his story, and the challenges of his diagnosis and how people have reacted to him, Trudy James’s name is always part of the story.
When he first arrived in Seattle he was as sick as a dog.
His family had walked away from when he was diagnosed.
He had no friends in the community.
He was in bad shape.
Long into his hospital stay he received a visitor that would change his life.
One lonely afternoon he was sitting in a chair looking out his hospital window towards the Olympic Mountain range, when he heard a soft knock on the door.
The lady who entered took one look at him, crossed the room and gave him a big hug. (These were the days when large warning signs hung on patient doors warning people of the patient’s medical status.)
My friend loves to share that she said, “Help is on the way.”
He further shares that she was the first non-medical person to touch him in months.
He often chokes up when he shares this moment.
I first met Trudy at a meeting at Multifaith Works, an organization dedicated to serving those challenged by HIV/AIDS and other debilitating diseases. I had joined a “CareTeam” made up of students who had volunteered to offer support to a “Care Partner” seeking camaraderie.
Because of Trudy’s insightful management, empathy and orchestration of teams supporting the sick, my respect and admiration for her has grown exponentially!
A few years ago Trudy left Multifaith Works to found Heartwork, a non-profit dedicated to working closer with people dealing with planning and decision-making in preparation for the final grand adventure.
To understand her path, and the incredible contributions she has given to everyone she has touched, I will share a bit of her journey.
Trudy is a trained hospital chaplain. She graduated from the University of Kansas and Union Theological Seminary in New York City.
She was the founder, then Executive Director, of the Regional AIDS Interfaith Network (RAIN) in Arkansas.
In seven years, 1500 faith-based RAIN volunteers served over 500 individuals with AIDS—20% of the AIDS population in Arkansas at that time.
Trudy was passionate about recruiting, training and supporting volunteer CareTeams and shared the AIDS CareTeam program model with ten other states.
In 1997, she moved to Seattle and began a successful CareTeam program under the umbrella of Multifaith Works, a nonprofit dedicated to compassionate community-building.
She served as CareTeam Program Director and CareTeam Program Specialist for eleven years, retiring to focus on Heartwork.
Trudy also served as a per diem Chaplain at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance for five years and continues to give phone, hospital and home support to individuals with life-threatening diagnoses or on-going illness.
She is on the Advisory Board for Compassion and Choices of Washington and on the Outreach Board for Foss Home and Village.
She does ongoing “5 Wishes” and bereavement groups for Providence Point Community, Issaquah, and Northaven Senior Living, Seattle and other venues throughout the Northwest.
A couple of months ago a teaching colleague, and friend, got the diagnosis he never wanted to hear.
After talking long and hard with friends, doctors and family he decided to go for chemo treatment #1, and if needed, chemo treatment #2.
Each week I would drive him to the hospital for his treatments.
About mid way through chemo #2 he told me he was going to pass on the third level of treatment.
After way too long in silence I asked him if he wanted to talk to anyone outside of family and friends.
About a month after introducing him to Trudy we were headed up to his doctors one afternoon when I asked him what he thought about talking with her. He said, “It’s kinda like talking to an angel.”
Check out Heartwork, you’ll find that my friend was right-
Oh, if you get a chance to meet Trudy ask her about breakfast in the White House with Bill Clinton and Al Gore.
M Barrett Miller
Let Kids Be Kids, Inc.