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Reflections on my Career – David Kennedy

We can not hold a torch to light another’s path without brightening our own.

– Ben Sweetland
David Kennedy leaving Hospice Peterborough on his last day before retirement.

There are significant moments in everyone’s life where it isn’t until later you realize the mark they will leave on you.

My 13 years at Hospice Peterborough, as the first dedicated Grief and Bereavement Coordinator, were rich in such experiences. Hospice allowed me to live life meaningfully, fully and to embrace all of the emotions and experiences of the human condition.

While there are so many people who remain in my heart and memory, the ‘Fireside Chat’ group changed me forever. Within a three month span five couples came to Hospice – all mourning the recent death of a child. I didn’t go looking for this group, they found me.

It was clear what they needed was each other and so we formed the ’Fireside Chat’ group in the old Hospice library gathered around the fireplace. And so these people found each other, certainly not the way they wanted, but in a way that embraced a different beginning and found the strength to continue to make space for an absent child.

Over the years, the group grew with the help of an incredible volunteer, whose young son had died suddenly in an accident. She provided a beacon of hope, having a firsthand understanding of their anguish and their tears.

There were so many powerful moments that happened in that room, I can’t put into words the incredible life-changing impact each person had on me. Their courage and willingness to help each other was humbling. I’m grateful to the literally thousands of people who have enriched my life – each one is a gift.

As a small organization we were able to be nimble and innovative, because donors like you allowed us to support the greatest need – which remains just as true today.

Parents were helped to find ways to live again.

Grief is the struggle with the end – never seeing a person again, hearing their voice, and never getting the opportunity to experience those anticipated life milestones.

It is also the painful adjustment to walk on this new journey, which doesn’t mean forgetting someone, or ending the love. It is closing the physical relationship, and finding new ways to remember and honour a loved one in a way which adds meaning and comfort in their physical absence.

One parent summed it up best “Hospice doesn’t have all the answers, but it does have the tools, so that we can do the work to find our way through”. This is the gift of Hospice Peterborough – to listen, embrace and hold the pain, when there are no answers.

Over the years it has been my privilege – honestly – to sit with people in their grief.

Every person deserves to be listened to, acknowledged and honoured.

Death has no regard for age and I am deeply troubled by the significant increase in younger deaths due to overdose, cancer and suicide – leaving families dealing with traumatic and complicated grief. While we cannot take away the pain and sadness, we can be there to provide support and hope through incredibly difficult times – with your help.
It’s not telling people what to do or feel but rather a shared wisdom – every emotion valid and deserving of compassion – without judgement.

In the last 3 years my work at Hospice shifted to another innovative role as a Supportive Care Counsellor for the Palliative Community Care Team. A new position to support individuals and their families after receiving a terminal diagnosis.

Over the years I have watched Hospice Peterborough grow exponentially, serving hundreds if not thousands of individuals dealing with life and death. In my last full year in this position Hospice served 923 adults and 135 children and teens in supporting them in their grief.

It truly is your community hospice. While staff play a role it is donors, volunteers and our community who made this building possible and support this privileged work.

As a donor myself, I ask you to make your donation today to support individuals and their families who will seek help from Hospice Peterborough in the coming year.

All the best to you and yours,

David Kennedy

P.S. I haven’t completely retired from Hospice work, together with palliative and bereavement health care professionals Julie Brown, and Red Keating, we launched a podcast ‘What Now? On the threshold of life, death and grief.’ I invite you to listen to our free podcasts where we share our knowledge and experiences. Each episode is a conversation meant to enlighten and demystify the often difficult and emotional experiences of dying, death and bereavement.

Click image above to listen to ‘What Now? On the threshold of life, death and grief.’