Hospice fuels Jeung’s passion for life
Post Independent Staff
Sean Jeung’s life is inspired by two things: her husband Greg Jeung and the death of her mother five years ago.
When Jeung’s mother died in California five years ago, she spent her final days in a hospice, where she was able confront the end of her life in peace. That experience was Jeung’s first with a hospice, a moment so positive and profound, she decided to make end-of-life issues her life’s work.
After 15 years teaching Montessori students in Carbondale, Jeung took a job as the volunteer coordinator at the Roaring Fork Hospice, a branch of Valley View Hospital.
“The experience I had with my mother has made me sensitive to the emotional needs of the people who are taking care of the one who is dying,” she said. “And all I have to go on is what my experience was like with my mother. Not everyone has the same experience.”
She said she has little or no contact with hospice patients, but she would like to expand her mission at the Roaring Fork Hospice to public awareness. Most people, she said, first encounter a hospice when a loved one is dying, but have little other contact with one.
“I think that if people become aware of what it is a hospice does, then they will not be afraid to call hospice when somebody is diagnosed with a terminal illness,” She said.
Not everyone has the same experience with hospice, she said, but most are deeply thankful that their loved ones had the opportunity to end their life’s journey in peace with loved ones by their side.
Jeung was born “by accident” in Radford, Va., where her mother was visiting family. Raised in Newport Beach, Calif., Jeung left home at 16 and soon attended Radford College near her birthplace. She arrived in Glenwood Springs in 1987 with her infant daughter and ex-husband. She married former town councilor Greg Jeung in 1994.
Greg, she said, “has just always been a role model for me for how to be a good citizen,” she said, citing Greg Jeung’s volunteer work and calling him her “claim to fame.”
Still active in Montessori education, Jeung said teaching helps balance out her life. Each summer, she trains new Montessori infant/toddler teachers at the Montessori Education Center in Boulder.
“It compliments the work I do with the people at the end of the journey,” she said. “The two times of life are very similar. One is tied a little more to sadness than the other one, but it’s still powerful.”
Working in a hospice and dealing with the death of her mother hit her with a “cosmic two-by-four,” she said. “That says this is not a dress rehearsal. As far as we know, this is it. I certainly believe this is not it, but we don’t know what’s next.”
That’s why she and Greg are planning to begin traveling in the next few years to see the country.
“We don’t want to wait until we can’t drive,” she said, adding that they’ll use Glenwood as a home base for their adventures.
Regardless of her future plans, Jeung said she’ll always be involved in end-of-life issues.
“Once you’ve been here, you can’t ever walk away from it,” she said. “It just becomes a part of who you are.”
She said that one of the things that comes form working with children and the dying is the need to create. Jeung said she loves to read, collect things and garden.
She also likes to hear stories about how hospices have touched others’ lives.
A woman whose father recently died in the Roaring Fork Hospice called Jeung to tell her she was happy the hospice could be there for her father. The woman said that her father was there when she was born and now she was with him when he was born into whatever is next, Jeung said. If the hospice wasn’t there, the woman never would have been able to be there for her father’s death.
Such an experience “just makes me cry,” Jeung said. “It’s what makes me come back every day. It’s what makes me come in here every day and face piles of paperwork.”
Contact Bobby Magill: 945-8515, ext. 520
Name: Sean Jeung
Occupation: volunteer coordinator and fundraiser for Roaring Fork Hospice in Glenwood Springs
Hometown: Newport Beach, Calif.; Radford, Va. (birthplace)
Years in Garfield County: 19
Favorite Place in Garfield County: “My little purple house” and the top of Red Mountain
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