Dying with dignity

From the Desk of Thomas Dow, Contributing Editor

What a wonderful world

Hospice helped my husband to die with dignity

By Jean Henri
Sudbury, Ontario

A year and a half ago my husband, Ray, passed away from cancer. The Maison Vale Hospice gave him the gift of dying with dignity and compassion, without pain. For me it was a place of refuge, a home, a place where I could be his wife. Ray was treated with the greatest respect and human kindness.

I noticed the little things the staff did — touching him gently, telling him everything they were doing and why, letting him make the choices when he was able. They supported all of us in every way, making sure the family was looked after. That was so important to me. It seemed I never had the time to do that anymore; I'd been everything but a wife and mother. We were given the gift to just be a family again, to spend the time with Ray and to love him. This wonderful feeling of warmth and peace come over me. The fear that had been part of me for so long was gone. I could finally just be.

Sitting beside Ray, holding his hand, going back to remember-when days. Tender moments, moments of sadness. Even though Ray couldn't answer me, I knew he was listening. The time we had together was short, but it was our time.

Ray wasn't afraid of dying. His only regret was leaving, knowing he was loved so much. The fear was of dying alone. And he never was. Ray chose his time to go. The nurse came in to check on him and told me he was leaving. I looked up and he had a smile on his face. Then he was gone. It was just Ray and me and he was not alone.

A really dark place

After Ray's death I was in a really dark place. My love of over 50 years was gone. I was alone in an empty apartment. No one in the morning, no one at night. I'd fallen and broken my hip. I had no purpose. I didn't belong anymore.

I called Norm Blanchard, the spiritual care giver at the Hospice, and that's when my life began to change from one of hopelessness and despair to one of happiness and gratefulness, a life full of hope. It wasn't easy allowing myself to be honest and vulnerable, but Norm taught me that it was okay to have these feelings and to live through them, how to open each door presented to me, not to trust my heart or my head but to go with my gut. He taught me that I can open that door and go through it and seize an opportunity, or I can stay at the door not ever knowing what was on the other side.

I am so grateful for the gift the Hospice offered my husband and now me. Now I live in hope and know I am a survivor. And, yes, it's a wonderful world.