In the halls of Hospice, givers gain

The believers behind the building of Hospice Simcoe knew how important the facility would be.  They knew that people can’t always die at home; and that most of the time the wrong place to die is in a hospital.

The staff, volunteers, fundraising coordinators, and ultimate believers like Dr Rick Irvin… they knew how important it would be to have beautiful rooms with normal furniture and extra sleeping room for family when a person is getting ready to die. Cy and Sally Elston knew how important this was and graciously furnished every residential room.

They knew how important it would be to have a bustling kitchen with good food, places for quiet, for crying, for listening. They knew that great bathrooms for assisted bathing, reading rooms and games rooms would all matter as a person was taking the final steps of their earthly journey.

The people at Hospice have established beautiful traditions for their dying clients and their families, and these traditions matter a great deal in a young organization.

Monday night, supporters of Hospice held a very well organized annual meeting. They thanked retiring board members and welcomed others. And as family were walking in and out, down hallways to the 10 Hospice rooms, those present at the meeting were hearing the stories of the significance of what happens in this building.

Three speakers shared their stories, from very different Hospice perspectives. Peter Crampton said expressed eternal gratitude to Hospice for the many services he and his wife Marilyn received during her cancer journey from 2009 until her death. “I knew nothing about Hospice or palliative care and we started out caring for Marilyn at home,” he said. His wife was able to remain at her home until she died, but Peter was quick to point out how important Hospice services were to both of them. He received good counsel from bereavement coordinator Kathi Kelly, who also conducted Marilyn’s celebration of life service. Peter attended bereavement classes and had the chance to share his grief with others.

“Even though Marilyn died at home, we were well cared for by this great facility,” he said.

Barbara Monz is a new volunteer at Hospice. Volunteers are the lifeforce of the facility and Barbara, after two months of training, is now a resident care volunteer. She said this is so much more meaningful than spending her spare time ‘shopping.’

“I had no idea what to expect at Hospice,” she said. “I feel that instead of helping the residents here, they are helping me.” She recalls a 77-year-old man who just needed to talk to her about his dying, about the things he was worried about. He asked her to help him through the process. “He thanked me.  He fell asleep, in peace, and passed away that day. We took care of so many details for him, we took away his worry.”

And so Barbara asks:  who helped whom? Aren’t we all human beings, connected to each other?

Third speaker was the Hospice House nurse, Chanene Fiske, who also works at RVH. A bright, cheerful professional, Chanene flips open curtains with a cheery song and she remembers Jenny, one resident in particular. Jenny appreciate Chanene’s upbeat approach and they often broke out in song together.

“I wish I’d known Jenny longer… we had a true friendship of the heart.” Chanene then read a poem she wrote for Jenny, honouring her life journey and her death.

These three speakers represent so well what happens inside this facility, nestled between a farm house and a cemetery (!) on Penetanguishene Rd. It’s an upbeat place with lots of room for expression of grief… it’s where the dying complete their journey in the arms of loved ones who have to keep on living. It’s a complex place. Simply.

Thanks, Peter. Thanks, Barbara. Thanks, Chanene.