2021 Volunteer of the Year, Arlene Stepputat.
Arlene Stepputat received the Volunteer of the Year award at the Minister’s Meeting during the Conference of the Heart of Soul Transcendence, June 27, 2021. At our request, Arlene graciously wrote about her life’s work and her volunteer service to the MSIA community through Heartfelt and HeartReach.
John-Roger once quoted Woody Allen, “It’s not that I am afraid of death, I just don’t want to be there when it happens.”
Many of us laugh at this in recognition, but then avoid the topic of death altogether. We intend to go home to the Heart of God, but perhaps the 10% level of leaving the planet somehow doesn’t seem “spiritual” so we avoid it.
I have had many personal experiences of deep loss beginning with the passing of my father when I was 11. Since then, most of my life’s work has involved befriending death and integrating it back into the life cycle. J- R’s teachings through MSIA, Insight and USM have given me the practical tools and experiences I needed to heal my own well of grief.
My professional life gave me the opportunity to work with the AIDS crisis in New York City, work as an educator for the Alzheimer’s Association and manage hundreds of volunteers at my local hospice organization. And most recently, I became a trained “end of life” Doula.
What I‘ve witnessed repeatedly is that avoidance of the topic of death had individuals and families scrambling to understand how to navigate the many options of the medical profession, what hospice is, resources to support those who were ill and those who loved them, and how to grieve in the process. It became my passion to educate! I started my website www.dyingingrace.com with interviews and information as a free resource to help people explore, navigate, and learn.
Carol Jones and the PTS “Joyful Transitions” class opened the topic to our MSIA community. Carol’s beautiful book, Through Kenny’s Eyes, demonstrated how death can be a sacred process amidst the pain of losing a beloved. This class brought many of J-R’s teaching around death and dying to the forefront.
Serving the Traveler and J-R’s organizations has been my path from my first Insight I onward. The joy of giving back when I have been so blessed to receive so much from Spirit is a gift beyond measure. As I fielded calls from various people in the Movement, I realized that I could provide a service by sharing much of the practical information I had acquired over so many years.
Circle of Light through HeartReach has also been a wonderful way that we as a body, minister and love one another on our way home.
Through the Heartfelt Foundation (pre-Covid), Carol, Cheryl Matthieu, Skyler and I provided an evening at Prana about Advanced Health Care Directives using one of the models, The Five Wishes. And subsequently we have been able to offer online informational sessions.
Covid stopped us all, for a while. Death suddenly became a focus worldwide and perhaps reminded us that we may not know what Spirit’s plan is for any of us. I began the MSIA Death Café, again thanks to Skyler’s willingness to host via Zoom, and we began to have conversations about death (see deathcafe.org to see this is a worldwide movement). More people started calling me with questions and concerns. My joy is that I can listen and, through Spirit, provide loving support and guidance.
Spirit taps me on the shoulder with the next directive. Start a group for grieving partners. Do a presentation about the sacred and practical roots of hospice. Answer the call as it comes. I just heed when the calling comes.
I am humbled and awed. I see how my entire life I have been prepared so that in my own later years I can continue to befriend death and help others do the same.