Life Imitates Art

Home Hospice Association is literally a matter of life and death for each of us. And this year l learned that on a much more personal level. Within three months I lost the two most influential women in my life; my mother and paternal grandmother.

Suddenly I was thrust from the person within HHA that does not “sit at the bedside” to sitting vigil. I became the one my family turned to for guidance and direction. “I wish I had a better singing voice” said my dad as he sat vigil for the only person he has ever been in the presence of when they were dying. “Dad, I don’t think Grandma ever minded your singing voice and she certainly won’t mind it now” was my reply. As he drew closer to her I got up and shut the door to her room, to bolster my dad’s confidence. He began singing an old Baptist hymn, encouraging those of us who are weary to “come home”. Three generations; my dad, myself and my cousin Easton sang to my grandmother as she took her last breath. “I have just witnessed a miracle” was the way my dad described the Home Hospice Care he had been part of.

It was hard to believe that three months and three days earlier, I was insisting on opera music for my mother’s room. A very different experience; but thanks to Home Hospice (and my amazing brother Jordan), a beautiful experience. I reference my brother because he, a mere one week prior to our mother’s death, had been released from the hospital due to complications from COPD. As a result he was unable to travel to our mother’s bedside. But, thanks to our home hospice work, found ways for him to be fully present for her and with her in the last 72 hours. Speaking to our mom by phone, he reminded her of so many things that, by looking at her face (even though she was “non-responsive”), she remembered. His calm approach to what was happening motivated me to call a priest in for “Last Rites”. While our mother had not been a practicing Catholic for many years, Jordan encouraged me to think about what she had learned growing up and reminded me how much absolution from a priest meant to those of her generation. Thank you, Jordan; I would not have done that.

When the priest and I talked about Home Hospice Care he defined what we are doing as the “ministry of presence”

Theory, became practice; life imitated art.

When I began Home Hospice Association in 2014 I had never “sat beside” and never thought I would. That was not my gift to this mission. As a matter of fact I always said “I do what I do so that those who need to sit bedside could do so”. Most charities fail, not because the work they do does not matter, but because they forget that a charity is still a business. My brain and my heart are all about business...Well they were!

Today my heart and my mind are connected to Home Hospice Association in a different way.

I always knew hospice was my calling. It was my legacy; why I was on this earth! And driving along the Terry Fox Highway in May of 2014 the journey of Home Hospice Association began. It was on that journey that I prepared to say goodbye to my best friend; my warrior; my protector; the inspiration for the Bello Project.

When I think about the HHA journey there is one way to define it…Failing Forward! We had a vision; an ideal and a belief. We knew who we had to attract. We called this person a person of vision.

But we had no idea how we were going to do what we wanted to do! The Why remains the same and it will never change. We ALL deserve dignity, compassion and peace at end of life. We all deserve a hand to hold, a voice to sing to us and the ministry of presence.

So if I can be so bold to ask; What do you want to do with the rest of your life?

Here is what I know. We are a people’s of death denial. Yet the only two things we are absolutely guaranteed is that we will be born and we will die. We want to deny that our old will die; never mind our young. You will never see a commercial for Sick Kids Foundation that states…thanks to your donation I will have a good death. Are we really that naïve to believe that every child who walks into Sick Kids walks out?

Young or old, are those (for whom there will be no cure) not as important as those who will benefit from the work of those who pride themselves in being in the top five cancer research centres in the world? Home Hospice Association says YES!

We are there for you…for them. We are for every community who wishes to take a proactive stance in caring for each other. We truly believe that as a village we can care and comfort our dying (and those who love them including their pets).

We are changing the face of end of life care in this country one community, one diagnosis, one heart at a time! How we care will change, grow and evolve. Why? Because we are willing to fail forward every day! We do not see ourselves as the experts. We see ourselves as the village willing to embrace thoughts, ideas and perspectives. We are not stuck in our ways. We are open to collaboration. We just want one thing… and that is for no one to die alone or in distress.

In conclusion I have learned just how easily that can happen. If one nurse did not know how “tuned in” I was to my mother’s condition; I would not have received the phone call and my mother would have died alone. If I had not recognized the signs of active dying I would not have called my grandmother’s eldest son and my cousin and she (at 101 years of age) would have died alone.

I know, in my heart and mind, that if I was not part of the HHA family, I would not have known what to look for ~ what to do. The two most influential women in my life would have died alone, even though they had a great deal of engaged and involved family.

Are you willing to leave your loved ones to chance???

For more information on this truly unique approach to end of life care, please visit www.homehospiceassociation.com

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