Monday, March 28, 2011

The Alzheimer's Art Quilt Initiative

Some time back I blogged on Memorial Quilts (specifically the AIDS Memorial Quilt). I recently discovered another quilting project meant to bring awareness to Alzheimer's disease. The Alzheimer's Quilt Initiative was started in 2006 to not only raise awareness but to help fund research.

This month, the Initiative is kicking off it's 5 year traveling quilt exhibit, "Alzheimer's Illustrated: From Heartbreak to Hope". The show is made of of 182 "Name Quilts" (a section is pictured to the right) that are 6 inches long and 7 feet tall. Each is made up of 55 patches sewn with the wrong side of the fabric to the outside, each with a name of someone who had or has Alzheimer's disease or dementia. (The fabric is on the wrong side to give it a more worn look.) There are over 10,000 names to represent many many more who have the disease.

Along with the Name Quilts, there are 55 smaller art quilts that represent some aspect of Alzheimer's. Unfortunately, the names and artists of these quilts were not on the website. The images are spectacular. The quilt at the top left shows a pair of footprints walking off into a forest. The image under it is a representation of the brain of the Alzheimer's patient and to the right represents the degeneration of neurons.

One of my favorite quilts (to the right) shows a gentleman in a purple top hat and bow tie locked away. It demonstrates a very interesting personality, held captive.

The Senior Prom quilt shows an elderly couple dancing. The quilt on the bottom right shows a couple walking down an empty hallway toward an Exit sign. The bottom left is a colorful image of a butterfly taking off.

Being from a family of quilters, I'm always amazed at the amount of work and time that goes into every quilt, but these are truly works of art. They take the folk art type media of fabric and quilting and make fine art. The artists can paint such beautiful works with fabric. And each work seems to be significant to the life and experiences of the artist.

The Art Quilt Initiative's has another project, Priority: Alzheimer's Quilts. They collect small 9" X 12" quilts donated to them and sell or auction the quilts off to support Alzheimer's research. Some of the quilts are Alzheimer's themed but most are not.

Monday, March 28, 2011 by Amber Wollesen, MD · 4

Monday, March 21, 2011

Cemetery Names

I was sitting at a stop light recently, nonchalantly glancing to my right when I noticed a sign for a cemetery reading "Resurrection Cemetery".   This struck me as odd. Do only people who believe they will be resurrected get buried here? Do people ever get offended by the name? This led to all sorts of questions about the names allotted to cemeteries.

First, it greatly depends on who owns the cemetery.  Cemeteries can be owned by cities/ townships, churches, or private owners such as a funeral home.  As you may guess, if a cemetery is associated with a church, it most likely will have the name of the church in it.

There is a web site I found that has culled through names and has them listed as most common to least common. For instance, according to The Political Graveyard, the most common name of a cemetery is actually Presbyterian with 175 located mostly east of the Mississippi River.  The second most common is Episcopal (140) and third is Evergreen (111).

It appears that the two main categories of names are either of religious origin; denomination, saint, or biblical theme such as hope, grace, etc. or landscape origin such as Woodlawn, Oakwood, etc.  There are certainly also many cemeteries named for people or towns, such as Washington and Lincoln.

Then there are the names that make us chuckle, like Prospect Hill, which leads one to ask, prospect of what? Or Hollywood Forever Cemetery, which still has some plots for those of us who want to rest with some of the who's who of Hollywood's yesteryear.

If the cemetery name is unique enough, it could even become a national attraction, like the Merry Cemetery in  Sapanta, Romania. As its name implies the tombstones are colorful and whimsical, with poems used as epitaphs.

Although not so much unusual by name, the location of this cemetery is what caught my eye.  The Neptune Memorial Reef located off the coast of Key Biscayne in Miami, Florida is what the name implies, a cemetery under the water.  Loved ones' cremated remains are mixed with cement and attached to the man-made reef with a name plate for future divers to visit.

With the 115,000 cemeteries that exist in the United States, I am sure there are other obscure and unusually named cemeteries.  However, the name is likely not to be under consideration when buying a plot. According to an AARP survey 53% of purchasers picked a cemetery based on family reasons, history or heritage and another 24% chose based on location. It seems the name, be that Assumption, or Mound or Odd Fellow didn't play a part.

Monday, March 21, 2011 by Amy Clarkson · 1

Pallimed Arts Re-design and Comment System

Pallimed Arts and Humanities is undergoing a redesign similar to Pallimed: Case Conferences.  There are still some bugs being worked out, and some new features being added including refined navigation.  Hopefully this cleaner look will increase the ease of use of the site, and encourage exploration of some of the wonderful posts from the archives.  These same changes will be coming to the main Pallimed blog in the next week or so.

We will roll out new features on all three blogs over the next few weeks, including a chance for you to write for any of the Pallimed blogs.  One of the more important changes is with the commenting system.  I was never a fan of the user interface under the basic Blogger template, but there was little room for customization.  I had been researching add-on commenting systems for a while and finally decided on Disqus (pronounced "discuss", get it?).  This platform has been implemented on several popular blogs and has been shown to have increasing stability, so we have finally made the switch.

So what does this new commenting system mean for you?


  • No more word 'captchas' (the squiggly words)
  • When you sign up for to follow the conversation with email, you get a really cool feature to reply straight from your inbox.  Just hit reply and your comment goes straight back to the blog.  Try it out!  It is pretty easy and  keeps the conversation going.
  • Disqus allows us to build our community of commenters.  When you login (instead of just commenting as a guest) a user profile is started that tracks your comments and 'likes' from other people.  Our hope is as this system grows we can find a way to reward the commenters who contribute the most.  You do not need to sign up for a Disqus account, but it does allow for more functionality across multiple blogs if you comment a lot.
  • You can attach links without knowing any html code and they will be clickable.  You can also embed videos and images easily.  
  • You can log in with multiple other accounts securely.  Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo, and OpenID are all available.  Pallimed collects no information, such as user names or passwords from this type of login. 
  • When you sign in with Facebook or Twitter, you have the option of sharing your comment with other people in your network. You have a chance to 'opt out' of sharing before posting, just look for the little square icon in the lower left area below the comment box.  We obviously would love for you to share your comment with your network and spread the word about Pallimed.  Since we have no advertising budget (or regular budget to speak of) anything helps to widen the discussion about palliative care intersecting with Arts and Humanities.
  • You can still leave anonymous comments, although you will have to enter an email address to comment.  Obviously you could leave a fake one, but you would miss out on the great replies to your comment.

  • It is a new system to learn, but it is pretty intuitive.
  • If you are concerned about someone seeing everything you ever commented on, then you may not want to use this, but at the same time, it will help you to make sure that your comments are clear, straightforward and helpful even if critical. 
Please send any feedback to

by Christian Sinclair · 4

Monday, March 14, 2011

Stanley Kunitz

Two time United States Poet Laureate, Stanley Kunitz, died in 2006 at the age of 100. He left behind him a long an productive career. He published his last poetry collection just a year before he died.

Stanley Kunitz father committed suicide 6 weeks before he was born. This is often reflected in his poetry.

My mother never forgave my father for killing himself, especially at such an awkward time and in a public park, that spring when I was waiting to be born. She locked his name in her deepest cabinet and would not let him out, though I could hear him thumping. When I came down from the attic with the pastel portrait in my hand of a long-lipped stranger with a brave moustache and deep brown level eyes, she ripped it into shreds without a single word and slapped me hard. In my sixty-fourth year I can feel my cheek still burning.
Below is Kunitz reading Touch Me, the last poem from his last published collection. Kunitz was known for his gardening. In his last collection, he reflects on life by reflecting on his garden. He once said:
"It's the way things are, death and life inextricably bound to each other. One of my feelings about working the land is that I am celebrating a ritual of death and resurrection. Every spring I feel that. I am never closer to the miraculous than when I am grubbing in the soil." 
The first line of the poem is apparently the same first line of a poem he wrote when he was younger.

Touch Me

Summer is late, my heart.
Words plucked out of the air
some forty years ago
when I was wild with love
and torn almost in two
scatter like leaves this night
of whistling wind and rain.
It is my heart that's late,
it is my song that's flown.
Outdoors all afternoon
under a gunmetal sky
staking my garden down,
I kneeled to the crickets trilling
underfoot as if about
to burst from their crusty shells;
and like a child again
marveled to hear so clear
and brave a music pour
from such a small machine.
What makes the engine go?
Desire, desire, desire.
The longing for the dance
stirs in the buried life.
One season only,
and it's done.
So let the battered old willow
thrash against the windowpanes
and the house timbers creak.
Darling, do you remember
the man you married? Touch me,
remind me who I am.

Thanks to Catherine Ellsworth for sending me a link to this poet

Monday, March 14, 2011 by Amber Wollesen, MD · 1

Monday, March 7, 2011

Children's Books on Grief: Grandma I'll Miss You

This is the final selection on this mini series on children's books that deal with grief.  I'm sure we'll review more books in the future, however these were the 5 books my local rural library had on hand.  It ended up being a nice eclectic mix and hopefully illustrates the variety out there.

Grandma I'll Miss You is written by Kathyrn Slattery and illustrated by Renee Graef.  The book was published by Chariot Books in 1993 and is listed for ages 4-8.

The main character in this book is Katy, who is dealing with some very mixed emotions. She is aware her grandmother is dying and she is also anticipating the birth of a new sibling.  This book uniquely brings in the idea of birth being similar death.

The beginning of the book is very story like, spending most time on Grandma's life. I suppose you could say this is the life review portion, as Grandma shares memories from her life.  As in the last two books reviewed, one of the big questions Katy has is "What will happen to Grandma when she dies? and Is there really such a place as heaven?" Unlike the other books these are just thoughts Katy has and aren't directly addressed.

What is refreshing is that Katy actually asks her grandma, "are you afraid about dying?" This leads to a creative illustration linking death and birth together. The grandma admits her slight fear, but then tries to put herself into the unborn babies shoes, as the baby too has no concept of what it will soon experience.

The next pages are very Christian based in concepts about heaven, and about getting a new body there. Katy and her Grandma wrap up the conversation and then the very next morning the Grandma dies. I did appreciate the statement on the book's last page, "Death, in its way, was as natural a part of life as birth", something we in palliative care definitely understand.

The illustrations in this book are simple and realistic. There isn't any thing that stands out in color scheme or medium used.

In terms of recommendation, this book probably has the most narrow audience of the one's we've reviewed. If it is line with a family's personal beliefs, then it would be a good conversation book, though it seems geared to older than the quoted 4-8 yr. old.  I did enjoy the normalization of death as similar to birth, and think there could be some other concepts related to that link to help grieving kids.

To sum up these last 5 book reviews, it seems that a common theme for children's books are the "What happens after?" questions.  3 books had different answers, and if that is the question your child is asking, it would be important to find a book with the answer you want to share!  The other type of book seems to be about grief itself - normalizing feelings and emotions one goes through in the process.

I hope to keep reading and familiarizing myself with what's out there so that when families ask me what to do, I'll be able to delve into the issue of concern, and make some more informed recommendations!

Monday, March 7, 2011 by Amy Clarkson · 3