Finding Joy – a Chaplain’s story of pie, tea and memories

by Joel Carmer, Chaplain at Kansas City Hospice & Palliative Care

compassionate careThere are many paths to finding joy and peace. Some people find joy in their family and shared memories. Others have hobbies and creative outlets. For some, it’s a shared experience or a gift of presence.

One of my favorite parts of my job as a chaplain is talking to people about their life experiences. And, helping them find ways to live their lives to the fullest – regardless of how much time they have left. We are each unique in our passions, in our experiences, and in our vision for our own lives. Oftentimes people want to share something of their heritage or their life experience.

They want the traditions important to them to be lived out through the generations. I remember a particular patient who had her own way of finding joy.

“Mary” and I shared the joy of cooking, canning, and creating meals out of what was left in the refrigerator that needed to be eaten. Her greatest pleasure was to create a pastry from her homeland of England. One day she asked if I liked mincemeat pie. To her delight and my good fortune, I said yes!

The twinkle in her eye told me she really wanted to share something special with me. We planned at our next visit to make miniature mincemeat pies. Unfortunately, she became very ill and we had to cancel. A couple of weeks later I received a call from Mary. In her sweet English accent she said, “Joel, are you ready to make those pies?” I could almost see the twinkle in her eye as her voice had some spunk in it.

“Are you ready to make those pies?”

When I arrived a couple of days later to her home, she had her apron on and everything we needed all laid out on the work surface. I barely shut the door behind me when she asked me to bend down as she placed an apron on me that she had made just for me out of a tablecloth. I am 6’2” and she was just shy of 5 feet. She giggled as I got down on my knees so she could reach to place the apron over my head. For the next three hours we made mincemeat pies while she shared stories of her youth living in England. After baking a few dozen of these mini pies, we sat down at her table, sipping fresh steeped Twinings Earl Grey tea, “the tea of her homeland.”

Chaplains have a key role in hospiceTrue to her nature, she would not let me clean her kitchen by myself, so we did it together. The clean up was more subdued, not as much dialogue as I was processing our time together. We hugged when all the “duties” were completed. She made a care package for me with the majority of the pies and gifted me with one of the pie pans she had brought over with her from England. Of course I still had the apron on.

She died a couple of months later but her legacy will live on. Every year since her death, my wife and I make mini mincemeat pies with Mary’s recipe, including her pan and of course, the beloved apron. Now, the twinkle has found a joyful home in my eye. She continues to help me find joy and for me to help others in finding joy!

Hear more from Joel Carmer

Senior Care Live on  Talk980AM-KMBZ featured Host Steve Kuker visiting with David Wiley, President and CEO of Kansas City Hospice and Palliative Care, and Joel Carmer, Chaplain at KCHPC. They discussed how hospice is about living life to the fullest with the time you have left and how KCHPC helps patients and their families find peace and joy at the end of life.  You can listen to the podcast any time!

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Chaplains are an integral part of the hospice team. Learn more about Spiritual Care in Hospice.

The mission of Kansas City Hospice & Palliative Care is to bring expert care, peace of mind, comfort, guidance, and hope to people who are affected by life-limiting illness or by grief. And, our vision is that each person in our community is valued from life through death and each family is supported in their grief.


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  1. Jordan on November 21, 2019 at 10:44 am

    I would love to shadow Chaplain Joel to gain insight on the role of a chaplain.


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