Our Cardinal Mission

HospiceOur Cardinal Mission: The Cardinal Circle of Hope was inspired by a sign of hope, which began literally, in the form of a little red bird from above. Cardinals have a long symbolic history of visiting those who are saddened by loss, in particular, a “Cardinal Loss”, the heartrending loss of a loved one. It was through a series of visitations from a small red cardinal that the answers to many painful questions about living life, after death began to unfold, and ironically, as I began sharing my Cardinal Experience with others, others began sharing their unique Cardinal Experiences with me. That’s when I began researching and discovered that the Cardinal Experience was a phenomenal encounter that had touched countless human lives throughout history. While the experience itself was enlightening, it was through the act of sharing this Cardinal phenomenon that the dark pain of grief began transforming into the light of hope, and so our mission began.

The heart of our mission is to share hope with those experiencing a cardinal loss, and provide a means for others to do the same.

While the inspiration for this project did indeed begin with an extraordinary visit from a little red bird after the death of my husband, it grew respectively through another cardinal message, gleaned from the benevolent hearts of the early Crusaders in the twelfth century. In a time of great strife and uncertainty, a few noble crusaders dedicated to Christ opened their hearts, as well as the doors to their collective homes, to travelers who were at the end of their journey. To travelers who could offer nothing in return, these courageous knights offered comfort to the dying and hope to living in various places that came to be widely known as hospes.  

While many generations, nations and ideas may have come and gone since those times, the love and hope of those faithful knights live on through the workers and supporters of Hospice today. Love lives on through all those who offer comfort and support to their fellow travelers, with consolation and solace through the end of their journey here on earth, and hope survives in the hearts of all who are left behind to continue on the journey of life.

Hope lives within us, but like love it is not of us. While hope may be born in us, it does not die with us, it springs from something far greater, something beyond life and beyond the reaches of death. Hope is a divine gift we can all share, regardless of our physical or financial circumstances. Sharing is an expression of love, which is vital to the awakening of hope within each of our hearts. Where there is love, there is hope, and these are the very words that form the Cardinal Circle of Hope.

Hospice of the ComforterOur Sponsors: Before I began constructing this project I presented the idea to Hospice of the Comforter. I told them, rather excitedly, of my recent cardinal experiences and of my desire to share the uplifting experience with others. The idea was well received and before I could even tell them of the plans I had to offer my support to them, hospice, once again generously offered their help and support to me and The Cardinal Experience project.

Hospice of the Comforter is located in Central Florida, and is the only freestanding inpatient Hospice House serving Orange, Seminole and Osceola counties. Since 1990, Hospice of the Comforter has provided compassionate care to tens of thousands of patients and families. As a local, nonprofit hospice, their support and resources come solely from their supportive community of friends and neighbors. For more information, please visit: www.HospiceoftheComforter.org.

National Hospice OrganizationThe National Hospice Organization: The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO) is the largest nonprofit membership organization representing hospice and palliative care programs and professionals in the United States. The organization is committed to improving end of life care and expanding access to hospice care with the goal of profoundly enhancing quality of life for people dying in America and their loved ones.

Hospice is a Philosophy: Hospice is not a place, a building, or an institution, hospice is a living philosophy. It is a collection of ideas, attitudes and people dedicated to living those ideals that directs the care of the dying and the supports the hope of the living. These dedicated people are nurses, doctors, counselors, clergy, administrators and a multitude of volunteers on every level of human and spiritual service.

Definition of the word Hospice: Historically, the term hospice meant to host or care for guests and travelers. The word hospice comes from the Latin hospes. As the original meaning refers to both guest and host, hospice is by definition a shared experience.

A Brief History of Hospice

Cicily SaundersThe first hospices began in the 11th century when the Crusaders began permitting the incurably ill to enter into places caring for sick and weary travelers. The order of the Knights of Hospitaller of Saint John of Jerusalem began one of the first official hospices in Rhodes in the early 14th century. The hospice was built to serve as a refuge for weary travelers, and those who were in ill health or dying. Hospices continued to flourish throughout the middle ages.

Hospices began to subside as Christianity spread into Europe and monasteries started taking in those who were sick, disabled or unable to care for themselves. The terminally ill spent their last days being cared for by monks, nuns and lay women. The 'lay women' working in these early Christian monasteries were wealthy women and widows who were the first actual 'nurses'.

The tradition of hospice was not revived again until 17th century in France by the Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul. France continued developing the concept of hospice and in 1843 Jeanne Garneir founded the hospice of L’Association des Dames du Calvaire. Six additional hospices were built before 1900.

By the mid 19th century, the hospice concept had spread to the united Kingdom and in 1899 Saint Roses Hospice opened in New York City. It was Cicely Saunders, who was credited with the development of the first foundational principals of modern hospice care in the 1950s.

Cicely began as a British registered nurse and due to her own chronic health problems, she was forced to begin a new career in social work. It was not long before Cicely was inspired by a patient, David Tasma, a Polish refugee she met in 1948. She began caring for him when he was hospitalized with inoperable cancer. The two began to discuss how she might one day open a place that was better suited to pain control and preparing for death than a busy hospital ward. When David died, he bequeathed £500 and told Saunders, "I will be a window in your home."

In an effort to fully realize her dream, Saunders entered medical school while continuing her volunteer work at Saint Joseph's. After earning her degree in 1957, she began disseminating her philosophy internationally in a series of tours in the United States. In 1967 she opened Saint Christopher’s Hospice in London where her dedicated ideals became a reality. Her hospice model served as an inspiration and her caring ideals began to spread around the world. Today, Cicely Sounders is heralded as the founder of the modern hospice movement.

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