“Ross”…This was the simple subject line of a message I received late this morning from a colleague. I knew what it would say before I clicked on it.
Ross had died.
I did not really know Ross, but hearing of his death hit me harder than I expected. You see, Ross was the first palliative care client that I met after I started working at Hospice Peterborough. He and his partner generously welcomed me into their home, during one of the most intense and painful times imaginable, to help me begin to understand the client work my colleagues do, and why that work is so important. I am forever grateful.
I had no idea what to expect as we arrived that July day. It was sunny and hot outside, and inside Ross lay on a medical bed in a small makeshift room on the main floor, because stairs were no longer an option. His weakening body was rail thin, but it was his eyes I remember the most. There were moments when they sparkled with mischief, and when he spoke about his death, I understood why my colleague called him a philosopher. Strangely, I find myself smiling at this memory. What a mixed bag of emotions loss brings.
Hearing Ross speak about his pain and his end-of-life wishes was difficult, but I am grateful to have been in the room. His partner sat at the foot of his bed as my colleague checked in with him about how he was feeling (it wasn’t a good day), and about his end-of-life plans. She spoke to me about their life together and shared photos of their travels. Seeing a healthy Ross smile up at me from the photographs in my hands, as his partner began to talk about the details of his funeral nearly brought me to tears. And all the while, from my seat by the window, I watched as my colleague leaned forward to catch Ross’s words of wisdom and his wishes. I have my personal reasons and experiences for believing so strongly in access to palliative and hospice care, but that brief visit to Ross’s home, snapped all the pieces into place for me.
I knew that Ross was going to die when I met him, but what I was grateful to read in my colleague’s email was that he was able to die at home in peaceful surroundings…the way that he wanted to.
Please note that names have been changed to protect privacy.