Patricia Acker of Xenia has worn many hats over the years.
At times, she was a T-ball coach. Or a PTA president, while attending graduate school at Wright State. She’s been a foster mother a few times. And most of the time, she was helping to comfort people as they passed away.
For 17 years, Acker worked as a hospice social worker in Dayton, helping families through the difficult process of losing a loved one, as well as assisting the person who is dying. Acker is now retired and has since compiled her experiences and wisdom about death into a book of short stories titled “The Dying Teach Us How to Live.”
Watching as a lifetime of wrinkles seem to leave the face of a person who finally lets go is an example of the firsthand accounts that could only be told by a dedicated hospice worker. Hospice is a type of care -- and even philosophy -- that focuses on relieving the symptoms of the terminally ill while also attending to their emotional and spiritual needs.
The book is illustrated with portraits created by Acker. As gifts for many of her patients’ families in hospice care, Acker would put on her artist’s hat and create an often emotional portrait for the family to take with them after their loved one died.
It’s hard to pinpoint the self-taught artist’s style, as each piece’s method depends on what Acker wants to explore that day. Her most recent muse is oil on mirror— strategically wiping oil away in certain areas to let light shine through the portraits.
When asked what inspires her before she begins each portrait, her only response is “love,” in a voice that’s more gentle than a whisper.
As a young woman, Acker experienced loss and grief and found nowhere to turn for emotional and grief support, according to her website. She wanted others to have healing and grief options so chose Hospice as her life's work.
“Because of death, it gives significance to life. None of us know when it’s going to happen, but it’s not a bad thing,” Acker said.
Countless encounters with death have made Acker unafraid of whatever comes after this life, she said.
“We’re all going to die sometime and we don’t know when that is,” Acker said. “So why not make a difference in the world while we’re here? ... There’s lots of opportunities in our life, and we have many choices to make. It’s because of death that we have to think carefully about those choices.”
Acker’s work will be on display in downtown Dayton at the Fifth Third Center Gallery, 1 S. Main St., in the grand lobby from April 2 to April 30 during regular bank hours.
Every Friday from 11 a.m.-1 p.m., you can meet the artist, get autographs, purchase prints and buy your copy of “The Dying Teach Us How To Live.” The book is also available for $20 plus tax on Amazon and at www.thedyingteachus.com.
Want to go?
WHAT: Patricia Acker Exhibit
WHEN: April 2-30, during regular bank hours; every Friday from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. you can meet the artist.
ARTIST RECEPTION: Artist reception and book signing held from 7-8:30 p.m. April 17.
WHERE: Fifth Third Center Gallery, 1 S. Main St., Dayton