Asplund remembered for helping those in grief Nearly 300 gather for funeral of director of bereavement center

December 11, 1996|By Tanya Jones | Tanya Jones,SUN STAFF

Nearly 300 relatives, friends and co-workers filled First Evangelical Lutheran Church in Odenton yesterday to say goodbye to Betty Asplund, director of the Hospice of the Chesapeake's Bereavement Center, and a wife, mother and grandmother.

The 51-year-old Millersville resident died Friday after a brief respiratory illness.

Asplund was remembered as a woman strong in her Christian faith who always was willing to help others through the loss of a loved one.

With the coffin draped in white cloth with red trim at the front of the sanctuary, the standing-room-only crowd cried and laughed a little as a longtime co-worker and friend and then Asplund's pastor remembered her life.

The service included hymns, responsive readings of scriptures and prayer. Tears flowed freely as soloist Dana Victor sang "The Wind Beneath My Wings" and "The Rose."

"One thing Betty has taught us is that tears are sure OK," said Dr. Connie Read.

Read, bereavement consultant to the hospice, interviewed Asplund 11 years ago when she came to the nonprofit organization to volunteer as a bereavement counselor. "Betty knew how to touch a grieving heart and facilitate the grieving process," Read said.

Asplund was known to attend four or five funerals a weekend to support families and present them with a rose, the Bereavement Center's symbol.

The depiction of a rose with rough edges, as if composed of pieces of torn paper, is based on the traditional Japanese craft of "chigire-e," which means "torn into pieces picture."

"I believe Betty was the hospice rose," Read said.

Asplund, a Baltimore native, was a young wife and mother when her first husband died in 1971. She eventually remarried. In 1985, she came to Hospice of the Chesapeake to volunteer as a bereavement counselor, drawing on her own experience.

"Everybody feels better when they talk to Betty," said Martha O'Hearlihy, a hospice board member and volunteer with the children's bereavement camp that Asplund helped start.

Asplund took over the Bereavement Center in 1990 and in 1992 spearheaded the opening of Camp Nabe, a free one-weekend program designed to help children ages 6 to 14 who have lost relatives or close friends. The camp and a manual explaining the center that Asplund developed have been used as models for similar programs around the country and internationally.

The Rev. Robert L. Hinz's recollections of Asplund's spontaneity, love of singing and attention to detail brought chuckles.

"She was so dedicated that sometimes you wanted to pull your hair out," said Hinz. "She wanted it perfect and if it's not, then, 'We're going to make it that way.' "

Those who worked with Asplund at the hospice admired her thoroughness and dedication.

"She worked nights, weekends. She would go out to churches and speak about helping people with grief," Allison L. Alexander, communications director at the hospice, said after the service. "She never said no" to a request for help.

Read concluded with a reflection on hope that she said would be Asplund's words to those who miss her. "Hope means to keep living amid desperation in the darkness," she said. "As long as there is still hope, there will also be prayer, and God will be holding you in his hands."

Pub Date: 12/11/96

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