Celebrating our Last Adventure

Maria “Dancing Heart” Hoaglund wears purple to talk about life and death.

It is the color of grief and of encouragement, she said.

“And I am an encourager,” she said.

A hospice chaplain for 11 years, the Clinton resident has just published an inspirational book titled “The Last Adventure of Life: Sacred Resources for Transition.”

The book is the foundation for workshops and seminars she gives throughout the region.

Hoaglund, an ordained Christian minister, adopted the name “Dancing Heart” while on her own spiritual journey. She opened many doors along the way and has included the wisdom of great theologians and mystics with the thoughts of every day people in her book.

Poignant stories of the people Hoaglund met, some in the last days before death, are uplifting and informative.

Between the eloquent pages are passages on joy, truth, beauty, love and hope, as well as information on meditation, grief and healing.

A hint to Hoalund’s own roots are the Japanese characters in calligraphy throughout the book inked by Buddist friend Reiko Mittet.

Hoaglund grew up in Japan. Her parents were Lutheran ministers, so she spent her childhood mostly overseas with furloughs in the United States. When she was 17 years old, Hoaglund returned to the U.S. to attend Yale College in New Haven, Conn. She later earned a Masters in Divinity to become a minister in the United Church of Christ.

She wanted to be a pastoral counselor, but was advised she could better serve if she spent time as a minister first. For 10 years, she was a parish minister. Toward the end of her tenure, she asked God “How could I bring the joy back into ministry?”

The answer came during a meditation: Hospice.

She landed a part-time job as a bereavement counselor in Bellevue before being hired fulltime in Everett. While comforting those who are dying and their families and friends, she has gained spiritual insights.

She gave a workshop last week at the Bayview Senior Center and several hospice workers who serve clients in Island and Skagit counties attended. Hoaglund’s book is among those in a hospice library. Several hospice workers told her how helpful the book was to the families they work with.

For many people, living poses enough challenges, but dealing with their own death or that of a loved one is virtually impossible to disuss.

Hoaglund’s book helps people open up and break down barriers about grief and dying.

Hoaglund offers retreats for caregivers. People who give to others all the time must replenish themselves, she said.

Working for hospice gave Hoaglund time to do her own explorations. Hoaglund’s expansive interests led to exploring Native American, Buddist, Christian and other realms of wisdom. As a result, she is knowledgeable about a wide array of spiritual and healing practices that she incorporates into her work.

She is now recognized as the type of encompassing counselor who bridges traditional religions with the new spirituality that is growing around the world, she said.

She writes,” the end, it is not our religion, but our full understanding and acceptance of our true essence that will save or heal us. It is through the way we live our lives every day — our love and service, our joy and understanding — that we will heal ourselves and our world.”

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