In SCOOP, we are starting a new series. Defining Moments gives you a chance to share why you chose to pursue your profession or to share highlights along your career path. Your recollections needn’t be heartfelt, like mine, below. They can be humorous, entertaining, informative, insightful, thought-provoking, or something in between. The important thing is that your fellow press club members want to know more about YOU!
I’ll go first.
Defining Moments: Why I Chose to Be a Journalist, Then a Publisher
By Karla Wheeler
Ever since I can remember, I loved to write. But there are two defining moments that propelled me to become a journalist.
First, in eighth grade, I won a city-wide essay contest in Philadelphia. Writing always came naturally to me, but this was the first time my ability to evaluate source material, choose salient points, and craft a solid discourse was recognized beyond the classroom. My family and I were invited downtown to an awards ceremony where I received $25, a sizable sum back in 1966. This city-wide recognition at age 12 fueled my passion for writing.
Next, eight years later I was working as assistant administrator to the Mayor of Cleveland, Ralph J. Perk. At the time, Cleveland had two daily newspapers, a morning and an evening paper. I would sit in on press conferences and interviews with the mayor. And most always, the report I read in the morning paper would correctly reflect what had occurred. But the account in the evening paper would sometimes seem distorted or sensationalized. Puzzled by the inconsistent coverage by the reporter from the evening paper, I promised myself that one day I would became a newspaper reporter, and I would strive to achieve accuracy and objectivity with every assignment.
Now let’s fast-forward 25 years, skimming past my years as a newspaper reporter/editor, editor of regional and national magazines (business, lifestyle, cardiology, geriatrics) to the defining moments that inspired me to launch my own publishing company.
In 1987 my grandmother, my soulmate, was diagnosed with terminal cancer. I was devastated; she was my staunchest supporter and cheerleader. To soothe my aching heart, Gramma tried to reassure me. “When it’s time for my transition,” she would say, “I’ll be ready. I know it will be beautiful.” I was perplexed. How could death be anything but horrible and tragic?
Gramma enrolled in Hospice of Naples (now known as Avow Hospice), which enabled her to stay at home, free of pain physically, emotionally, and spiritually. During her six-month journey with cancer, I often travelled to visit her.
As fate would have it, I was visiting the weekend she died. Asleep on a cot next to her bed, just after midnight I was gently awakened by a balmy breeze from the Gulf of Mexico. I went to Gramma’s side and caressed her hand. Her breathing changed, and I began to breathe in unison. Inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale, inhale. Then she lay still. While her body was perfectly still, I felt her spirit fill the room, like angels’ wings, dancing joyfully as her spirit seemed to join the gentle Gulf breezes swirling around the bedroom.
Gramma had indeed made her transition. And thanks to hospice, it truly was “beautiful.”
I vowed at that sacred moment to find a way to dedicate my journalism career to helping hospices provide support and comfort to more patients and families. I felt like standing on a mountain top, shouting to anyone who would listen, that death is not the enemy, that no one needs to die alone and in pain. Hospice is there to ease the way.
In 1999, Quality of Life Publishing was born. And now, 22 years later, I am beyond grateful that Gramma’s beautiful death inspired my small niche publishing company to publish booklets, newsletters, and books that help hospices nationwide ease the way for patients with terminal illnesses and their families.
That’s my story. Now it’s your turn. Please share your story by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, attention Karla Wheeler. Not only will your story be published in SCOOP, it will also appear on our website. Search engines often list content from our website on the first page of search findings. So your byline will receive the recognition it deserves.
Looking forward to reading your story. Thank you!