Nurturing the Spirit to Find Peace and Purpose at the End of Life

Peace, purpose and meaning are terms that can’t always be easily illustrated or explained.

But it’s what the Rev. Nathaniel Johnson brings to the people he sees as one of eight spiritual caregivers employed by Emmanuel Hospice.

“My job is to help remind folks of what brings meaning, hope and purpose to their lives,” he says. “Many times when people are faced with a physical health crisis, such as a terminal prognosis, their world gets recalibrated, and you look for things that you can hang onto in the midst of the uncertainty.

“I connect people with those things that help them find a foothold in this very uncertain process. For some, it’s a faith connection. For others, it might be connecting through nature – via gardening or photography or art or anything that brings beauty into their life.

“For some, it’s family – looking into the faces of their children or grandchildren and being reminded of their legacy, how it continues on long after they’re gone physically.”

In any case, he emphasizes: “It expands into something so much broader than one’s religious identity. That’s certainly a component, but it’s also about who am I, what matters to me, what gives me meaning and purpose and hope.”

Johnson’s perspective has been shaped over a lifetime of serving the spiritual needs of others. He was born and raised in Japan, one of four children born to missionaries. He has more than 30 years of experience, having served two Methodist churches in West Michigan and as a chaplain at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital.

He has developed into a champion for hospice care, which he points out “is a vital aspect of care … completely covered by Medicare,” but for which too many people wait too long to sign up for.

Johnson emphasizes hospice is about helping people decide how they want to live out the rest of their lives. In acknowledging the spiritual component Emmanuel Hospice focuses on as part of its caregiving, Johnson explains.

Emmanuel Hospice offers Flight to Remember and Virtual Reality experiences for patients

Our own Heather Duffy and Katie VanRyn were featured on eightWest today sharing about our program with the Flight to Remember foundation and Virtual Reality offerings available to all those served by Emmanuel Hospice. You can also learn about how to support these important programs by participating in Art of the Table charity of the month event coming up July 13th, 2021.

Thomas W. Czerney and Micah N. Foster Join the Emmanuel Hospice Board of Directors

Grand Rapids, Michigan – Thomas W. Czerney and Micah N. Foster have joined the board of directors for Emmanuel Hospice, a faith-based nonprofit provider of compassionate, person-centered hospice care to patients and families in West Michigan.

Czerney and Foster have been appointed to serve on the 12-member board, which oversees operations and works to foster continued growth and success of Emmanuel Hospice, for 3-year terms. Czerney began his duties in April, and Foster began his in May.

“We are so pleased to welcome Thomas and Micah to the board and look forward to their many contributions to our growth and success,” Executive Director Sara Lowe said. “Both bring outstanding resumes and a tremendous breadth of experience to the Emmanuel Hospice board that will be a great benefit to our leadership team and the patients and families we serve.”

Czerney steps into his role with more than four decades of experience as a certified public accountant. He was an active partner with Beene Garter LLP until 2009 after nearly 25 years with the firm. He then retired from the Diocese of Grand Rapids in 2018. Czerney is a member of the American Institute of CPAs, Michigan Association of CPAs, Western Michigan Estate Planning Council and University Club of Grand Rapids.

He has previously served on several community organizations’ boards and councils including Aquinas College, St. Ann’s Home, the Basilica of St. Adalbert, Catholic Charities of West Michigan, Catholic Information Center, the Grand Rapids Community Foundation, Heart of West Michigan United Way and the Western Michigan Estate Planning Council.

Czerney holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration cum laude from Aquinas College. He resides in Grand Rapids with his wife, Janet.

Foster comes to Emmanuel Hospice with a strong background working with physicians, academicians, administrators and leaders in the healthcare field. He currently serves as an urgent care physician assistant with Spectrum Health and as an adjunct faculty member for Grand Valley State University’s Physician Assistant Studies Graduate program. Foster has previously served the Grand Rapids African American Health Institute, first as an education coordinator and then as the organization’s interim executive director.

Involved professionally and in the community, Foster currently serves as president-elect of the National Association of Health Services Executives Board and a member of the GVSU Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Justice Committee. He previously served on the boards of Davenport University College of Health Professionals, National Association of Health Services Executives Steering Committee and Outreach 4 Health Executives. Foster additionally mentors students pursuing careers in medicine and healthcare occupations.

Foster earned his master’s degree in physician assistant practice from Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science and bachelor’s degree in allied health science from GVSU. He additionally holds PA and controlled substance licenses through the state of Michigan and is certified by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants and the Drug Enforcement Administration.

He resides in Hudsonville with his wife, NaQuetta.

Emmanuel Hospice launches Advanced Cardiac Care program

Our own Jennifer Radaz and Amber Powell sat down with eightWest to share some insight about our new Advanced Cardiac Care program, a unique collaboration between National Partnership for Healthcare and Hospice Innovation and the American Heart Association and local providers. We are so pleased to bring this to West Michigan!

Telling Our Pandemic Story

We are honored each time we’re featured on Telling Your Story from The WGVU Morning Show with Shelly Irwin to talk about our mission. In November, Bryan Cramer, our Director of Business Development, gave Shelly insight into how we have had to rethink our approach to care and how we do so — always — in a meaningful way, even amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Committed to Care During a Pandemic

When face-to-face care became more difficult, Emmanuel Hospice had to adjust to the precautions necessary to stay safe during the pandemic. We had to think outside of the box, adopting new technology and ways of providing care.

With the help of grants and community donations, we were able to begin telehealth visits with patients and their loved ones. Our nurses, aides and spiritual caregivers were able to continue helping over 100 patients on a daily basis. From virtual visits to cards to bereavement phone calls, our programs changed in a meaningful way.

Growth in 2020

Emmanuel Hospice has been serving West Michigan for over seven years. This year we were named one of the Best and Brightest Places to Work for in the Nation and our team has grown exponentially. While growth is bittersweet, we must give credit to our staff, board members and volunteers for taking such great care of our community when they needed it most.

The support we receive from the community and others is a wonderful reminder of why we are on this mission. Our first ever virtual Annual Celebration took place earlier this year and we raised over $50,000 to continue our holistic approach to care. 

Want to hear more of Bryan’s interview on Telling Your Story? Listen to the full interview here. Thank you, Shelly and WGVU for the spotlight.