Filling the Newest Job at O’Connor: Family Care

 – A Special Journey Mercies Entry – 

Being a mother of 4 and a grandmother of 9, I have come to believe that I have a pretty good handle on caring for my family.  Today my relationships with my children have become deeper and much more meaningful than they were while they were growing up. I also have the opportunity to mentor my grandchildren, and a few months ago, I moved my brother here from Oregon to manage his care. I have a lot of experience in caring : )

This year I celebrated 20 years with O’Connor and retirement from my full-time position.  I loved being the Director of Community Relations and Resources but with retirement came a new opportunity to grow and give back and still work part-time for my beloved O’Connor in a brand new position. I am the very first Family Care Coordinator.

Photo Courtesy of iStock/simonox

Photo Courtesy of iStock/simonox

The goal of our Family Care Program is to provide care-touches to the families we serve when their services are over. I get to meet with our families face-to-face, hear their stories, connect them with grief and bereavement resources, and share some loving support and opportunities for healing.  And, because we respect each family’s opinion, I also have the opportunity to ask for insights and thoughts about their ceremonies and our staff who provided support and care.

Each family that I meet has a story. One in particular touched me deeply. I had the honor of being with a woman about my age, and as I sat across from her, a newly grieving widow, I could see and feel her profound sense of sorrow.  It came up out of the depth of her being and these words spilled forth, “I already miss him so much.”  At that moment I felt a surge of compassion that I had not known before, and as I reached out and took her hand, these words flowed from my heart, “I know this is painful, and I am so sorry.  Your journey of healing has just begun.  Give yourself all the time you need to heal.  I will be here for you and I am just a phone call away.”  In that moment two women came together, and there was no need for any more words.

Her eyes softened as she thanked me, she took a deep breath and began to tell me about how her husband had died and about the passions he practiced in his life.  A smile broke on her face and I felt privileged to listen.  Her gratitude for the care and support she received was evident.

“The ceremony was perfect,”  she said.  “It was everything I had hoped for.”


Helping our families begin their journey of healing.

Being here as long as I have, I have had the joy and the honor to be placed in roles that have helped me grow as a woman, a mother, and a person who cares deeply for others. That would not have happened, I truly believe, in any other work environment.

Photo Courtesy of

Photo Courtesy of

Neither of my roles were something that I picked for myself.  I was “chosen” by the incredible men who lead us each day to be better than we ever imagined. This new role has given me the opportunity to come along side our families and support and love them “after it’s over.”  I want them to feel that we will not leave them “at the grave.”  I want them to know that we can support them through the ages.  That we will continue to be there when they need us the most.

The other day I had lunch with my daughter Kari. She is an Administration Specialist here at O’Connor and she asked me if I enjoyed my new role.  Without hesitation I simply said, “I love it.”  She paused and then she said, “Mom, how often is it that we get the opportunity to “love” our jobs?  You have had two with O’Connor and you love them both.  That doesn’t happen.”  She’s right.

I know that this kind of opportunity does not happen all the time. I have been gifted with the responsibility to provide care and comfort to folks who, for a moment in time, become my family.

Family Care . . .  It’s what I do best right now.

What do you think of this new program?

Do you wish someone had helped your family in this way after a loss?

By | 2013-09-04T05:00:30-07:00 September 4th, 2013|Inspiration, Resources & Information|45 Comments


  1. Lori September 4, 2013 at 7:07 am - Reply

    My Dear MP,
    Even before I started working for O’Connor, you were the face of O’Connor to me because of a couple of Bill Hoy seminars I had attended. Your warm and inviting smile made me want to be part of what seemed to be such a wonderful place.
    A few years later when that goal was realized, you were one of the first people who truly gave me a warm welcome. You made me feel like you were so happy I was part of the team. I was thrilled that this nice lady with the kind smile at the seminars was glad I was beginning my journey at O’Connor.
    You have continued to be a source of support for me through the good and bad things that happen in my personal and professional life. Like Anne, you love me enough to say the tough stuff. You reach into my heart, pull out what is bothering me and give me very practical solutions. Tough love comes from those who love you the most.
    Our dear friend Maria predicted early on that she could see me working with you at some point. When she made that prediction, we both thought it would be in the Community Development capacity.
    Now you have paved the way for this new role in Family Care. I could not be more thrilled to be working alongside you in this capacity. There is no feeling quite like that moment of connecting with a family. Family Care IS what you do best and I only hope I can make you proud as I partner with you in this role you have pioneered.
    Love you so much!

    • Patricia Kolstad September 4, 2013 at 7:44 am - Reply

      Lori . .
      Thank you for your kind words. This has been an amazing journey for me, and now for you. I believe that people come into our lives providentially, and that nothing is by chance. My new role could not be more appropriate for this time in my life. I am so grateful for the myriad of opportunities that have been offered to me, and more than that, for Neil, Jeff, Chuck and Fitz, who believed in me and supported me through the years. Family Care is what we do best. It creates a sense of purpose in my life, when I know what I’m doing is offering support and care long after the services are over. There hasn’t been one family, who initially would say, “I can only stay a few minutes”, that hasn’t stayed 30 or 40 minutes just to tell their story. We “listen to understand, not to respond”. They leave knowing that we will still be here for them.
      I’m excited for you and thank you for letting me mentor. Life is tough enough not to have friends come along side and say the “tough” stuff. I had it, and it made me a much better person. I look forward to our time together.

      • Lori September 4, 2013 at 6:28 pm - Reply

        You have been my mentor for nearly four years. I cherish our dinners, though too few and far between. Life is tough without friends to love us and keep us in line. You have helped develop me into a more mature person and I know there is much more growth in my future. I look forward to our time together as well. If anyone can get me in line, it’s you! 🙂
        Much love,

        • Patricia Kolstad September 4, 2013 at 6:56 pm - Reply

          You are exactly who you are suppose to be. We all are. Warts and all. You are working toward being the person God intended you to be. And I believe that you have a very special place with us here. No “getting in line” needed. You will find your own path and you will make your way. I’m just there to love you through all the “stuff” that happens to us. If I can be that, my purpose is fulfilled.

          • Lori September 4, 2013 at 7:03 pm

            Your love is always welcomed and appreciated! Thanks for being there through the “stuff”. You are definitely living your purpose, not only through the delicate care you show to our families, but by role modeling to the younger members of the staff. You are a leader MP and we are lucky to have your example to follow!!!

          • Patricia Kolstad September 10, 2013 at 9:01 am

            I so enjoy being a mentor . . never thought I would get the chance to say that, but I do. Thanks, Lori!

  2. Jeff Turner September 4, 2013 at 7:56 am - Reply

    As I reflect upon your time here at O’Connor I don’t know of anyone who has morphed so completely several times in your job description and personal growth. I am so excited for you and for the family experience this will enhance as we endeavor help create healing and meaningful events as our neighbors, friends and family begin walking the grieving journey. I know you. I know your heart for people to connect, encourage and comfort them. You are in the “perfect” spot for this season. Thank you for this window into “Family Care”. I pray it will comfort and encourage those who have entrusted us with their precious loved ones, their families and friends. “Comfort” – literally – “Strength-Together”.


    • Patricia Kolstad September 4, 2013 at 7:01 pm - Reply

      Jeff . . you have always been there for me. Through it all, you were steadfast and true, and you were my friend. I have grown because of your care for me, your love for me and my family, and the friendship we have shared for goodness knows how long now. Maybe nearly 30 years. This season of my life is one of the richest I have ever known. I am joyful and I am worthy. And I feel so honored to be part of this every growing family we call O’Connor. I feel so thankful that I have the opportunity to “be there” for our families . . . it’s such an inspiration to see them, hear their stories, and apply the gifts that I have learned here, to strengthen them. You do know me . . . and I am better for it.


  3. Molly Keating September 4, 2013 at 8:35 am - Reply

    Aunt Pat,
    I love that this position exists and I LOVE that you are in it! I see so much value in what you are able to bring to the family, that validation that they are on a journey and that their grief isn’t over just because the funeral is.
    You are going to offer so much comfort to our families and help them grieve in healthier ways. I love that this all lines up with your passion, your gifts, and your strengths.

    You are amazing and I love this new chapter of your life & O’Connor’s future!


    • Patricia Kolstad September 4, 2013 at 7:09 pm - Reply

      My sweet Molly . .
      Who would have ever known that so many years ago, (because I was there when you were born), that we would have this unbelievable passionate connection in the same place? I am so grateful for all of the opportunities I have been given and the way I have been mentored. You too, will see this (as I know you do know) in a much deeper way as you move through your years with O’Connor’s. I know that Family Care is such an important part of who we are. . . from the first moment we meet our families, until the service is over, it’s “family care!”. I so appreciate your support and your talents. We are so fortunate that we have the “best of the best” as colleagues!
      Never forget what we are here to do . . . support, love, care for and provide for the families we serve.
      I love you dearly,

      Aunt Pat

  4. Becky Finch Lomaka September 4, 2013 at 8:50 am - Reply

    I love listening to you speak and I love reading your words; the care and compassion you have for your fellow man is so deeply evident. I am so excited for you as you, once again, forge the way in a new role here at O’Connor. I know that your time with families will help them on their journey toward healing. Thank you for inspiring me every day! You are amazing!!

    • Patricia Kolstad September 4, 2013 at 7:15 pm - Reply

      Becky . . . thank you.
      I think we all have been inspired to be “great” each day we come to work. How many people have the opportunity to be in an environment that supports greatness. Not many. You, my sweet friend, are beginning your journey as an O’Connor family member. Your passion for others is so very evident. You have been chosen to lead us into the next great era of Family Care. And I am so excited to be part helping that along. Our families need us. They need our support and our love. They need tenderness from those they would not suspect of giving it. That is what we do best. That is why I love what I do. Giving back to those in the midst of grief. What an honor!


  5. Anne September 4, 2013 at 10:00 am - Reply

    Because you care, because you are a good listener, because you have the tools and the insight, each family who agrees to meet with you will be changed in some positive way because of that encounter. I have no doubt.
    I am glad you are doing this and that you love it like you do…. a perfect match.
    Love you,

    • Patricia Kolstad September 4, 2013 at 7:18 pm - Reply

      Annie . . I do!
      Like each new challenge we face, when we give ourselves permission to move forward, reach out, fail, and regroup, we become better and stronger than before. You are a certain testament to that. This is another opportunity to give back a small portion of care to those who travel this road call grief. We have learned much, you and I, and I am so blessed to call you my friend. And you know something else . . . ? You would be a wonderful Family Care coordinator!
      I love you!


  6. Tom September 4, 2013 at 10:04 am - Reply

    Thank you for sharing your devoted care for others and you are a mentor to me.

    • Patricia Kolstad September 4, 2013 at 7:21 pm - Reply

      Tom . . thank you!
      You, my friend, have evolved more than anyone here I know. Your strength, wisdom, kindness and caring is so evident. You have mastered the gift of purpose. You know who you are and you provide great care to our families. I am honored to walk with you here. Our families speak so highly of you. And i am grateful to you when I hear that! We’ll be here forever, right?


  7. Neil O'Connor September 4, 2013 at 3:13 pm - Reply

    Hi Pat –

    I love our continual care program! You are the prefect person to care for your families, your history of caring with compassion is profound and very significant. I am so thrilled that you are enjoying this new role. Thank you for all the love and support you give our families & teammates. I love you dearly! XO

    • Patricia Kolstad September 4, 2013 at 7:32 pm - Reply

      Neil . . . thank you again for the opportunities you have given.
      Once again, I am at peace with where I am on my lifelong journey. I feel like there is nothing I cannot do. Our Family Care program is unbelievably important and necessary. Our families our so thankful that we are offering them another opportunity to tell their story and thank our staff. It’s quite profound to sit in their midst and listen. Such a solemn time. I feel this overwhelming connection. Something I have never experienced before.
      Thank you, my dear sweet friend. We have journeyed together for awhile now, and I am so grateful for your love and your friendship.
      I love you more!

      Patty O’

  8. Carrie Bayer September 5, 2013 at 10:10 am - Reply

    Pat, I’m so excited about your new role here. I think it is perfect for you! It is so important that families know we will not “leave them at the grave” though I’m sure they are anticipating just that. We can tell them we are always here for them ongoing, but it is showing them that is what makes all the difference. Thank you for all that you do! Sincerely, Carrie

    • Patricia Kolstad September 9, 2013 at 4:16 pm - Reply

      You are a big part of what I do as part of “Family Care”. For it is your dedication, care and compassion to our families that make my transition with them so meaningful. I so look forward to hearing their thoughts about you, and how you made such a difference in helping them create a meaningful ceremony. I so love hearing the wonderful comments that are made on your behalf. So, thank you for helping our Family Care Program be so very successful. It’s your great passion and purpose that provides flawless services.
      Thank you,


  9. Kristen September 5, 2013 at 10:11 am - Reply

    Well, I’d say you do “Mom” and “Grammy” pretty darn well, too! No doubt, your time with this family business has contributed to your personal evolution. You are perfectly poised to be in a position of caring and understanding. It would only do that you take your place holding the hands of those families who have been thrust into a world of new beginnings, for they can be scary and unsettling. You offer them care and support. It’s a perfect match! I simply love the idea of continuing to learn new ideas, positions, crafts, etc. throughout our lives. Very inspiring, Mom! I love you. Kris

    • Patricia Kolstad September 9, 2013 at 4:21 pm - Reply

      Thank you so much for your sweet words. Our lives are ever changing and evolving. We can dig our heels in and say “no way – I’m not going to change.” Or we can move forever forward, growing and re-creating our lives for the better. In the end, we can contribute goodness, not only to those we are trying to reach, but to ourselves, as well. I so believe in that . . and being here at O’Connor, I can truthfully say . . . they have been a major part in my evolution. Greatness come from leadership. I have had great leadership!
      I love you,


  10. Joanna Ramirez September 5, 2013 at 3:57 pm - Reply

    What a nice story to hear from you, Pat! I have seen first hand the special relationship you create with the families you meet and it is amazing to see that. I absolutely love that this new role was created and that you are the lead. You are perfect for it! Your kindness and compassion are what our families look for after the “dust has settled”. Thank you for everything!!

    • Patricia Kolstad September 9, 2013 at 4:23 pm - Reply

      Thank you so much, Joanna.
      Isn’t it wonderful to know that we have these great opportunities afforded us here. We are nurtured, taught, and asked to be “great” each and every day. You, my friend, shine in that department. Thank you for the leadership you show each and everyday, managing our Care Center and assisting the General Manager. You have proven that when given and opportunity to success, you go for it!


  11. Shayna Mallik September 6, 2013 at 4:48 pm - Reply

    Perfectly said! I love that this position was created and that you took the challenge of starting it from the ground up. You are perfect for it! You are such a caring, kind, and loving person and it shines thru to our families. I have seen first hand how you love your job! You make such strong connections and you definitely show the families we will not “leave them at the grave” we are always here for them. Thank you for extra special care touches you make with the families!!!

    <3 Shayna

    • Patricia Kolstad September 9, 2013 at 4:29 pm - Reply

      Thank you for your kind words. I do LOVE what I do. It’s been a wonderful journey of struggle, perseverance, failure, growth, constant learning, and success. I am grateful for the opportunities I have been given, and for the trust that our leaders have placed in me. It continues to be a wonderful adventure, with more learning and more growth. I’m so glad that I’m still here. I can’t think of anything I’d rather be doing, or any place I’d rather be doing it for!

  12. Greg Forster September 9, 2013 at 2:11 pm - Reply


    How fortunate you are indeed to find 2 fulfilling career positions back to back.
    I like your new position, and I like the fact that you were the person chosen specifically to spearhead it at the time of its launch. The many talents that you possess will be of great use and comfort for the families whom we serve.
    The Family Care Coordinator position demonstrates once again, as so many of the families whom OCM has served have found, that we are committed to a continuum of care from the moment we get a call that someone has passed or is requesting to do their prearrangement plan. It continues through their service. As you stated, we do not leave anyone “at the grave”. There is life”beyond the grave”. Sometimes, however, individuals need a guide to gently direct them towards what lies ahead.

    I know that you enjoy and experience profound fulfillment in helping them reach towards their own personal futures of dealing with grief and embracing the healing process. I know that you are with them in realizing that yes, there is a future, and, yes, one day once more the sun will shine.
    May it shine on you, with you and through you as you continue on your own personal journey of being there for others, be they a stranger, or a new-found friend.


    • Patricia Kolstad September 9, 2013 at 4:40 pm - Reply

      Greg . .
      Thank you! You absolutely know how important it is for us to continue the “care touches” to those who have entrusted us to care for their loved ones. There is life after death . . and our purpose is to connect, help, comfort, care, and provide resources for those families. I have been given the awesome responsibility to add one more “touch” and offer an opportunity for our families to express their feelings, thoughts, and concerns about how we cared for them. I have been blessed each time, just having that moment with them. You are such a great man and I so appreciate you taking the time to offer your well express thoughts.
      Together, we can do great things!


  13. Patricia Kolstad September 9, 2013 at 4:12 pm - Reply

    Hello Shasta – you are so right.
    Our families need to know that our care, from the initial call to the final disposition, is ongoing. And, “family” has always been in my vocabulary. Not only my own family . . but I have always thought of O’Connor as my family as well. I know you feel that too. You certainly have show how much you care for them.
    Thank You!


  14. Nicole Colasanti Cueva September 10, 2013 at 4:56 am - Reply

    beautiful, just beautiful! your compassion for others is shining already through this blog entry. your life experiences have equipped you for this very job, because for you, it’s not a job: it’s who you are!
    with love and deep respect of what God is doing in others’ lives through you,

    • Patricia Kolstad September 10, 2013 at 9:00 am - Reply

      Nicole . . thank you!
      It’s interesting that as we grow in knowledge and years, how are perspectives change. I am so comfortable meeting with grieving families now, as opposed to 10 years ago. This moment in time has equipped me with a gentle attitude, a listening ear, and words that can hopefully bring comfort and begin the healing process for others. It is amazing how God creates in us an attitude of gratitude and consciousness for others.

  15. Kori Kolstad September 10, 2013 at 9:21 am - Reply

    I do believe that you are perfectly suited for this new position Mom. You’re journey has brought you to this place where you are making a difference in the lives each family that you encounter. You are such an incredible inspiriation to me. I know that you are doing what you do, embracing change, and impacting lives with the love that you show to your own family. I couldn’t be happier for you. You are my Mother and I am proud of that. I love you big as the world and big as the best!!

    • Patricia Kolstad September 10, 2013 at 9:39 am - Reply

      Kori . .
      I believe the things we have learned from the past provide us with the tools to move forward and be a “light” in the future. Who would have thought that 20 years ago, I would be here providing care for grieving families. Certainly not me. But we know that we become stronger, more open and available when we learn from past experiences. I love what I am doing now, and hope that I can continue to learn and grow as I listen to the stories these families tell.
      I love you dearly!


  16. Fitz September 10, 2013 at 2:07 pm - Reply

    We are blessed to have you in this new role, Pat. Thank you again for giving of yourself and for having the courage to walk hand in hand with our grieving families. You are filling one of those gaps that people experience when they have lost a loved one. The power of your presence will be an undeniable gift.

  17. Patricia Kolstad September 10, 2013 at 2:45 pm - Reply

    Fitz . . . thank you for your kind words and expressions of trust. You have been a very large part of my growth as a woman, mother, friend and O’Connor Advocate. I have learned so much from your support and leadership. I am doing things that I wouldn’t have done 15 years ago. I can remember digging in my heels and not wanting to rise out of my comfort zone. I never realized that so many years later I would be able to feel like I was worthy or proficient enough to walk along side our families. I find that it is such an honor to do so.
    Thank you for your trust and confidence in me. My life here has more purpose than I ever could have imagined.


  18. Mark September 15, 2013 at 10:41 am - Reply

    Pat…..Nobody knows what twists and turns this thing called life has for us….the latest “turn” in your life has brought you to meet face to face with our families….it is both a great honor and a great responsibility….I have sat in with you and you do an amazing job….you are right….family care is what you do best….keep it up……Mark

    • Patricia Kolstad September 16, 2013 at 5:11 pm - Reply

      Mark . . thank you!
      Each of us have the ability to do good works. I have great appreciation for you as an Arrangers. You are highly trained, and prepared to shepherd our families on their journey through grief. You are the pivotal point of the beginning of “good grief” for a family. They trust you to help, care and provide for them, when they cannot do it for themselves. I now have an opportunity to see “you” through their words. It’s such a comfort to know that we have great men and women in those positions. I am blessed to have a small window of time with them and add another layer of care and comfort for their journey.
      Keep moving forward . . .

  19. Patricia Kolstad September 16, 2013 at 4:46 pm - Reply

    To my daughter . .
    It’s not difficult to love your family. Through the good times and the not-so-good times, we have endured. And, because of you and your siblings, I have had the opportunity to become a “better me!”. Thank you for your love, your support and your increasing awareness that we don’t often get the opportunity to work in a profession that not only supplies us with a livelihood, but also gives us the opportunity to give back, and become better than we ever imagined. If we learn from our “years on this earth” we can always do great things.
    Thank you for being you and for the good works that you are doing. I am, right now, so thankful to be able to meet with the families we serve, and continue the care and concern that they need and deserve! Who would have imagined that? When the doors open . . . RUN THROUGH!
    I love you dearly!

  20. Patricia Kolstad September 16, 2013 at 4:55 pm - Reply

    Thank you Amy . .
    Who would have thought that this would be a fit for me . . . I wouldn’t have way back when . . . but as you know, we are all given opportunities to grow and learn. My time with O’Connor has been just that and more. I believe in the leadership we have here . . . they know what we are capable of and they support and “push” us to be great. I’m so glad that I listened!


  21. Patricia Kolstad September 16, 2013 at 4:59 pm - Reply

    Chris . . . and I have watched you as well! Aren’t we glad that we move into those positions that can often times mean “learning curves and failures”? We are better for it . . and your growth is so visible. Thank you for your kind words, but as we move through this life, we find those with integrity, loyalty and the ability to mentor those who are new to the O’Connor Way. You, my friend, are that. Keep being filled with your desire for all of us to reach GREATNESS!

  22. Erin Fodor September 27, 2013 at 2:05 pm - Reply

    I love the new program! I wish this were in place 13 years ago when my father and uncle were killed. I believe it would have benefited my whole family. Sometimes simply talking, or reminiscing about the past is what the doctor ordered. I love that you’re there to help the family truly start healing. Your kind heart and passion for the job is shown to any family that is lucky enough to meet with you. It takes a lot of strength and courage to help families and I couldn’t think of anyone better suited for the task.

    • Patricia Kolstad October 1, 2013 at 9:41 pm - Reply

      Erin . . as one of the newest in our “family”, you have great depth and insight. I am so excited to have you here. We all have the ability to touch the families we are honored to serve. I have been given another opportunity to bring the very best care, comfort and support in their journey of healing and I am blessed to be able to bring resources and a listening ear. Family Care is just another touch to those who are grieving.
      Thank you so much for your kindness, both to me, our staff, and the families we care for.

  23. Elsa September 27, 2013 at 4:48 pm - Reply

    Having you and Lori care for our families after we have cared for them is such an amazing service you two are providing. It is so awesome to see the work that you guys are doing.I can not think of any two ladies more perfect for this new position.
    Wishing you all the best in your new role.

    • Patricia Kolstad October 1, 2013 at 9:45 pm - Reply

      Thank you Elsa . . . we are forever learners here, and it has been a joy to sit with our families and hear all the wonderful things they share about you and all of our other staff. You are such a wonderful compliment to our team. You have a beautiful smile and a wonderful way of connecting in the first few moments. Thank you for your support of this great new program. It is an honor to serve along side you!
      Keep being great!

  24. Patricia Kolstad October 1, 2013 at 9:34 pm - Reply

    Hi Shannon . .
    Thank you so much for seeking O’Connor as a mentor. I believe that as we share our insights, successes and failures with others, we can bring back the respect and trust to funeral providers. I look forward to talking with you and helping you in anyway I can. Keep moving forward, seeking guidance from others in the profession, and you will be great! Thank you again for responding to our blogs.