There are two quotes on Lynn Petersen’s office door. One is from Maya Angelou: “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” The other is from Vincent van Gogh: “Your profession is not what brings home your weekly paycheck, your profession is what you’re put here on earth to do, with such passion and intensity that it becomes spiritual in calling.”
Petersen, a Laundry Housekeeping Supervisor at Prairie View Senior Living in Tracy, Minnesota, says she thinks of these quotes when she carries out the special tradition she started over fifteen years ago.
When residents pass away, Petersen displays memorials on the beds of the deceased, which include objects that represent important parts of their lives.
“I put their hobbies, family pictures, and make it as personal as I can. I don’t want that family to come in and look at an empty bed, so I expect to be called when a resident passes away. I’ll come in on the weekends, I’ll come in on holidays, and if I’m out of town I’ll delegate. Because the journey matters. Your life doesn’t end—that’s how I view it. I just try to make it as special as I can for the family because it’s very difficult.”
Initially, the activities staff came up with the idea of putting a Bible and a rose on the bed of residents who had passed away. They asked Petersen if she would be interested in doing this, since she would already be in the room to clean. “I said absolutely. And I just took it to another level. If it’s Easter, I have Easter bunnies and eggs. On Christmas, I always put up the sign [that says] ‘I’m spending Christmas in heaven.’”
Petersen has worked at Prairie View Senior Living for over twenty years, having started when her mother was her supervisor. Petersen’s mother passed away at the facility four years ago, but the facility remains a family passion, with Petersen’s three sisters and her daughter working there, as well as cousins and second cousins. “It’s like having a family reunion every day when I come to work.”
Being with residents and brightening their days is important to Petersen. “It doesn’t matter if they’re in here for a week or ten years, when they walk in that door they become my family.” Petersen often visits with residents over a cup of coffee in the morning.
“This is their home. They deserve their home to be as comfortable as ours. I will do whatever I can to make it that way for them.”