Danny Pettry’s personal goals

canstockphoto12712884Spoiler alert: In the end… we all die.

Death and dying was a subject that was covered while I was pursing my undergraduate and graduate degree in Recreational Therapy.

I had real life experience with this while completing practicum experience at Woodlands Retirement Community in the early 2000s and volunteer work at Heartland of Beckley in the late 90s.

I’ve lost loved ones in life. You’ve lost loved ones too.

Past great, well-known leaders have lived their full lives and passed, like Lincoln.

Today, it is 2018.

In 100 years it will be 2118. That year even sounds odd to say.

Most people reading this blog entry today won’t be alive in 2118. I’d be turning 138-years-old, which is probably not likely.

The truth is: we only have a limited time here on Earth.

Existentialism is my favorite philosophy. It has to do with big life questions like:

  • Who are we?
  • Why are we here?
  • What is the meaning of life?
  • What is the grand purpose of everything?
  • What consists of a good, decent life?

I don’t have the answers.

Dr. Raymond Moody interviewed people who were “pronounced dead” and then came back to life. He published his research in his book, Life After Life. Moody summed up two questions that people often reported having during their time away.

  • How did you love other people?
  • What did you learn?

Those two questions resonate with me.

Here is a video I created with my own personal Definiteness of Purpose statement – which is very congruent with the two questions Dr. Moody found people with near death experiences.

On learning:

  • I regret to say that I’m not certain what I should learn. Currently, I learn what I enjoy learning about and keep an open mind to learning more.

On loving: 

  • Gary Chapman, in his book, The Five Love Languages describes five ways to express love. These include: words of affirmation, [healthy] physical touch, chores/ helping, giving gifts, and quality time. Chapman had written this book for couples. He later wrote a version for loving children. I believe his five love languages can be used for expressing love for strangers too.

On dying:

I’ve heard that many people on the death bed don’t regret the things they did with their lives. They often report regretting those things they didn’t do.

On living:

And if you want more inspiration — Listen to Lee Ann Womack’s song, I hope you dance.


Reflections on 9/11 and Grieving



A book review of Patricia Murphy’s (2008) book, Tough Topics.

Source: Murphy, P. (2008). Tough topics: death. Chicago: Heinemann Library.


Reflections on 9/11

                September 11th (9/11) is remembered annually for the terrorist attacks on the United States in 2001. Wikipedia (2017) reported that 2,996 people were killed in this attack.  Sometimes death happens quickly when it happens by an unpredictable accident (like a car wreck) or a random act of violence (like 9/11). Sometimes the approaching death is known (like having an incurable cancer) or suffering prolonged illness.

Radical acceptance: Death is something that will happen to all of us. It is part of life.  U.S. Senator John McCain shared, “every life has to end one way or another,” in a (2017, Sept 11th) CNN video.  McCain argues valuing the importance of life.

Tips for Grieving

                Patricia Murphy provides education on death and coping in her (2008) book, Tough Topics: Deaththat was designed for children. Murphy consulted with Gillian Dowely McNamee, Ph.D. who is a professor of child development at the Erikson Institute in Chicago.


                Murphy (2008) discusses these areas:

  1. Death happens and it is part of life.
  2. People can say goodbye when they know a person is dying. Sometimes a person is not able to say goodbye when the death happens suddenly.
  3. What funerals, burials, and receptions are described.  Murphy argues that this, “is a tie to celebrate the life of a person who has died.”
  4. Grieving after loss is covered as well as the mix of feelings a person experiences like guilt, sadness, anger, loneliness.
  5. Murphy argues that it is healthy to open up and talk about feelings. A grief counselor can be helpful.

Here are Murphy’s(2008)  tips for coping with grief:

  • Write feelings
  • Draw or paint pictures of loved one
  • Do something your loved one enjoyed and think about that person
  • Take time to grieve
  • Remember: You’ll always have memory of that love.



Murphy, P. (2008). Tough topics: death. Chicago: Heinemann Library.

CNN. (2017, September 11), Video: Available at: http://www.cnn.com/videos/politics/2017/09/10/mccain-every-life-has-to-end.cnn

Wikipedia. (2017, September 11), September 11 Attacks. Available here:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/September_11_attacks

Living at the end of life: the TR Twist


Photo credit: CanStockPhoto

I had the privilege to attend a training session titled:

“Living at the end of life: the TR twist.”

I only attended part 1 out of the 2 training sessions.

This session was provided at the ATRA annual conference in the Chicago-area on Tue. Sept. 13th by:

Barb Stuebing, CTRS/R; and Lisa Frazior, CTRS.


Who attended?

They asked people to raise hands at different times: do you work with geriatrics? Community? Behavioral health?

I [Danny Pettry] was the only one in the room who worked with pediatrics.

One of the reasons I did attend: I started out in college way back in the late 90s thinking I would be a rec therapist with seniors in a skilled nursing setting or a nursing home or community for seniors. However, my first job was with pediatrics in behavioral health and I’ve worked there for 14+  years. I wanted this session as a re-fresher for working with people on the other end of the age spectrum.


Danny Pettry comments:

  • the truth is: we all die. It isn’t something we often talk about in our society. However, it happens. It is part of the life cycle.
  • The speakers asked how many of us were comfortable talking about it?
  • I proudly felt: I can do this because I am a mental health counselor, too. We received some discussion cards. My two partners in my small group became tearful. Why is that so contagious? I didn’t have physical tears, but my heart was crying. We discussed people in our own family.  I hope my parents don’t read this blog entry – but to be honest, I told them I attend this session because I know my parents are getting elderly and I know they won’t live forever and I know most likely they will pass away before me (unless I’m in an accident – which is likely because I’m on the interstate driving a lot). But It was tough stuff.
  • I didn’t attend part 2 of this training (the after lunch part) for a few reasons: I attended the mindfulness training, which is something I teach at work to kids, but have not had official training in, and because I had plugged the mindfulness training during the one I presented, and because this was just an emotional session. They had tissues.

Here is a link for the cards I was telling you about:

http://codaalliance.org/ (the link has a lot of resources).

Here is a link directly to the cards I was talking about: http://codaalliance.org/go-wish/

The cards ask many things about death and dying. I want to get copy of them.


The speakers shared how sometimes a person would bring up a tough subject during recreation. They might be playing cards and feel distracted and feel open to share: I think I’m dying. I think it is my time.

The speakers wanted to know how many in the audience were capable and prepared to deal with that.


It is hard.

Danny Pettry experiences: I was completing a 60 hour practicum as a senior living facility. I was going several days a week. (this was probably early 2002 or early 2001). It was spring. One elderly guy was 100-years-old and active. His hobby was making wooden toys. He had a lot of them and they were very good quality: trucks, cards, boats, dolls. I was sitting beside him on the porch by the humming bird feeder that didn’t have any birds yet because it was too early in the season. I asked him what he wanted for his birthday. He said he wanted me to be there. His wife had passed. His only child had passed from old-age. His siblings had passed. He was alone, except for the wonderful staff and other people at the facility. I showed up on his birthday. He had passed the day before. I went through the stages: denial, anger, depression. It took me a while to accept it. And I had only known this guy for a few weeks. It is tough stuff. I admire the people who work with this population.


The presenters spoke that the goal is: provide the best quality of life right now. When people participate they are often able to process stuff. Danny Pettry: I thought this sounded a lot like mindfulness and being in the moment. Focusing on the future causes anxiety and worry.


The speakers presented about getting prepared:

  • having a health care power of attorney,
  • advance directive,
  • living will,
  • 5-wishes, and
  • polst.

DannyPettry: my father had told me many years ago that he had assigned my younger brother to that. He said because he lives closer and in town and could make a quick decision. I personally think my dad made that choice because he was afraid I wouldn’t say pull the plug like he wants. However, I think being more passionate, I’d be able to do so to stop the suffering (if that were to happen). I hope he goes peacefully in his sleep when it happens.


I didn’t attend part 2 (as I said above).

They played the David Bowie video on youtube (Changes) because they were talking about making changes in how care is provided. I felt a bit sad then too because I’m a David Bowie fan and he has passed away earlier this year. I’m not sure the speakers were aware of that. They may have been.

Below is a video Bowie released right before he passed away that I think is interesting. The presenters didn’t play the video below: