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With Gratitude

Open Window

“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.

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Roof work and prep

Over the past few weeks, workers have been continuing to work on the inside of the building (not much to see!). Externally, preparations are underway for metal roof installation for all the peaked roofs (see photos of black building wrap on roof sections below). Roofers have also been busy sealing the flat roof over six of the 10 Residence bedrooms. In the construction site cam photo below (dated July 23 at 3pm), you can see workers on the flat roof – partly obscured by trees. It’s nothing fancy to look at but crews have been on that portion of the roof for the past week getting it completed. Continue reading Roof work and prep

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Sacred Space

By: David Kennedy, Supportive Care Counsellor, based on an anonymous client

I never thought it could happen this way. Of course, that is what we all say afterwards. Funny thing about life and dying – you have to be doing one or the other but, while doing the one, we forget that the other option can show up anytime.

I came to the group reluctantly – that is the easy word – I really came kicking and screaming inside. Yet there was something that pulled me in – curiosity and the idea that perhaps I would find here what I knew I could never find elsewhere. So I came. This is my story.

My child was the center of my life. I called him my miracle child. He was a miracle in that I was told I would never have children and that pain, in and of itself, weighed on me constantly. So, when I found myself pregnant, it was as if the universe had smiled on me and life was a joy. I embraced every day. Then, it was like the switch went off – you know the brilliance of light that is suddenly gone leaving only a blanket of darkness that causes disorientation, until you get a sense of your surroundings. Only this darkness doesn’t allow you to find that sense. There is constant disorientation, and an inability to find equilibrium.

He died. There is no way to make it any softer and still true. He died, and when he died a piece of me, a huge piece, in fact most of me, died too. How is it possible for a 21-year-old miracle boy to die? Doesn’t the fact that he made it into this life, when no one thought it possible, mean that he should be able to live a long time to enjoy that miracle? I guess not. We were too busy living to consider the other option. How he died is not important to this story – it is the fact that he died.

So, here I am sitting in a room at Hospice with 18 other people and I can tell just by the look on their faces that I didn’t have to try to pretend, or try to find words to explain. They all understand this place of sadness, disbelief and senselessness. I was told I didn’t have to say anything if I didn’t want to, and believe me – I didn’t want to. Partly, because it was too painful to open the story to others, and partly because I knew that the dam holding back the emotional flood was pretty frail!

A strange thing happens. I do speak, in fact I speak much more than I imagined I could.

I speak of my son because they wanted to hear his name and what he was like.

I speak because I knew that those listening were listening without judging my ability to “get over this.”

I speak because pain released is so much better than pain withheld.

It is exhausting, but exhausting in a good way. The tears I feared, are tears shared. My search for answers about how to do this are not met with a list of ten things to do, but rather an openness and an invitation to “not knowing” supported by the hope that I will find my way.

As our meeting ends we light a candle and go around the room while each person says the name of their child that died, and then we sit in that air, silently, some crying softly, all of us stilled in the depths of our being. I open my eyes and look at this room and decide it is sacred space.

These walls hold hundreds of stories. Stories spoken in pain, but they are stories that carry the depths of love not found elsewhere. These walls hold these stories gently, graciously, with strength of compassion, and they wait for our next meeting, when again they will witness the love and sadness of a miracle child, born, loved, and lost, and the mom who struggles every day.

This is why I love Hospice. It isn’t because I am given a sheet of things to do, but rather I am offered a space, a sacred space, to be with others who have lost their miracle child. A space where together we live, honour and remember our child.

No matter where Hospice is, or what it looks like, my hope is that there will always be a space to share stories of sadness and love, and a place to find the gift of those who will witness these with us.

** A story offered anonymously to say thank you for all of the support, work and effort to give Peterborough City and County a place for this.

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Pouring concrete slab

These days there doesn’t seem to be much activity at the construction site but that couldn’t be further from the truth! Last week saw concrete trucks lined up around the block helping to pour the concrete slab flooring on the inside of the building. There has also been activity on the roof as workers prepare to install the metal roofing (see second photo below). [showhide type=”post”]

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Getting ready for exterior coverings

The outside walls of the new building have been primed in preparation for stucco, stone and other exterior wall coverings for the new building…[showhide type=”post”]

Northeast view – June 7, 2018


Northwest view – June 7, 2018


Southwest view – June 7, 2018

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Hospice Peterborough Announces New Medical Director

Hospice Peterborough is pleased to announce that Dr. John Beamish has accepted the position of Medical Director for the new Hospice Residence being constructed at 325 London Street in Peterborough. The 10-bed Residence will provide around-the-clock, active, end-of-life care, in a supportive environment for Hospice clients and family members – a first for our community. The Residence will be a place where the focus is on compassionate care not cure, and where it will be fine to slow the clock, breathe fresh air through the windows and perhaps hear the birds one last time.

In 1988 Dr. Beamish was one of the founding members of Hospice Peterborough and has been a continuous presence with the organization since that time, offering support to staff and volunteers, and most lately as a member of our Every Moment Matters Campaign Cabinet. In his role as Medical Director, Dr. Beamish will provide medical insight and leadership to both the Hospice Residence and the Peterborough Palliative Care Community Team.

“For those working in the front lines of palliative care, the opening of this new building is the realization of a long held dream of Hospice Peterborough becoming a central hub for the delivery of hospice palliative care,” said Dr. Beamish. “I am excited to work with the team seeking to transform the dream into a vital, vibrant part of our caring community.”

Please join Hospice Peterborough in welcoming Dr. Beamish into this new role – which will enable the organization to strengthen local communities by offering another choice for end of life care alongside its long-standing home support program, day program, grief programs, caregiver, family and wellness support programming.