Changemaker July 2019
Written and Submitted by Terri-Viola Wilson
Daniel Steinwald, like so many of us, has lost someone very dear to him. But Dan’s experience in the death of his wife, Diana, differs from the rest of us in that Diana invoked her right to have medical assistance in dying (MAiD) at a time chosen by her. Diana was able to have what can be called, “A Good Death”. And it is Dan’s goal, through his volunteer work with HHA, to help others who wish to do the same and to support those who support the dying.
“My love, my partner, my wife, Diana,” Dan begins, “was a breast cancer survivor.” But in 2012, she was diagnosed with colorectal cancer. After multiple surgeries and therapies, cancer came back in 2017 and Diana and Dan knew she was loosing her battle. Having been the primary caregiver to her own mother, Diana knew the demands of that role. Not wanting to be a ‘burden’ to Dan, she chose to seek medical assistance to die on her terms. While Dan was able to help Diana with the technicalities of accessing MAiD, it was the compassionate care and guidance of Death Doula, Merri-Lee Agar from HHA, which allowed Diana to have the kind of peaceful, mindful death she wanted. On March 17, 2018, with her loving husband at her side, Diana died at home, in their bed, surrounded by family and friends. But this special story does not stop there.
After Diana’s death, Dan decided that he was going to give his time to HHA as part of his “commitment to honour Diana’s wish that others could benefit from her love, light, and peace”. Dan currently serves as Chair on the Home Hospice Niagara Board of Directors. Retired now, his experiences and knowledge from a career as an executive in the health care system, as well as his involvement with non-profit community organizations, help Dan in this new role.
Dan’s unique contribution to HHA are two projects on which he is focusing his time and attention, Diana’s Pathway and Savita’s Project. He describes Diana’s Pathway as a program that “will develop and test the protocols to assist anyone seeking help/guidance from HHA Chapters in following the MAiD process and assisting the client’s survivors”. Dan is initiating Savita’s Project as a way to “provide a meditation/mindfulness approach to caregiver stress relief”. Dan is well aware that the MAiD process, while now legal, is still bureaucratic in nature. However, he finds working on these projects, with Tracey Robertson and Merri-Lee, therapeutic.
Diana’s Pathway and Savita’s Project will be of great assistance to an unpredictable number of people as HHA moves forward with them. It is the passion and dedication of people like Dan that will make the difference in the success of these programs.
Dan draws strength from Diana, even now. She was, he explains, “spiritually evolved as a Yoga practitioner through studying The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (Guidelines for living a meaningful and purposeful life) and the Prayer works of Marianne Williamson”, both of which continue to strengthen and inspire Dan. It has only been one year since Diana’s death and one wonders how Dan is coping. Having been a combat soldier, he says that he is trained to supress his feelings in order to face adversity and so he responds with simplicity, “I miss Diana and I’m fine.” And HHA is fortunate to have Dan onboard as a volunteer leader, creating a new way to empower our clients and support caregivers.