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Awakening To Moments

By: David Kennedy, Supportive Care Counsellor, Hospice Peterborough

It was a very intense moment. The air was literally heavy with grief. She had just finished telling me the story of the sudden unexpected death of the love of her life. As she had poured out their life together, there was a deep sadness that pervaded all other emotions. Even those moments we laughed at a memory were wrapped in a shroud of sadness and disbelief. When we examined the things that reflected his life she was awakened to their significance beyond the physical, and spoke of the beauty that these things brought out in him – things like love, meaning, joy and gratitude.

Our conversation wandered leisurely, albeit with difficulty, through the many things that people take for granted at the time, but later realize are clothed with such powerful emotions. We miss what we take for granted and it is not the problem of putting off what we can do tomorrow, it is the mistake of living as if we always will have a tomorrow.

As we came to the end of our journey for that day, I asked her if she missed his voice. She paused, unsure if it was okay to tell me. Then she told me that she has his cell phone and it is still active, and every now and then she will call and listen to his voice and leave a message. Then with deep sadness in her eyes she added. “But he never returns my call.”

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Caissons up close

In yesterday’s post I mentioned that the 48 in-ground concrete pillars (caissons) have been poured – thanks to the giant drilling machine that was onsite for about 20 days. This morning when I walked by the site, there were surveyors working and they had brushed away a lot of the surface dirt so you could really see the caissons. There are two photos below – one that shows the size of each caisson (profile view) and the layout of them all. [showhide type=”post”]

This morning I was also struck yet again by how the new building and Heeney House are taking shape. In the photo showing the layout of the caissons, you can see a large trench dug at the south/far end of the photo. As you can see by the south elevation drawing below (of the site at completion), there will be quite a drop from the top of the new building down to the walking path and garden areas. I have also included a photo taken from the north sidewalk of London street looking south onto the site. Contrast this to the architectural drawing below of the north view of things at completion. It’s fun to imagine!

 

South elevation

 

 

 

North elevation

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Foundation laid…awaiting next phase

On March 21, 2017 the large machine arrived to dig the holes for concrete pillars that will be the foundation for the new building. Through sun and snow, the work continued. Twenty-two days and 48 in-ground concrete pillars later, the big machine finished its job on April 12 and was loaded onto big transport trucks to move on to its next job.

In other news, the temporary driveway for our neighbours has been installed. There is now a separate construction entrance and the eastern construction fence has been moved about 20 feet further to the east. Today also marked some digging right up to London street where the new main entrance and layby will be. [showhide type=”post”]

So…what will the next major phase be? Will we see above ground construction for the new building? Continuation of the concrete elevator shaft to the third floor? Restoration of Heeney House exterior? Stay tuned…!

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In the Family Room

Composite story written by John Mowry based on his experiences working with families at end-of-life.

My sister, brother and I sat in silence in the “family room”. The doctor had explained that Dad had suffered a life-threatening stroke and decisions needed to be made as to how Dad would want to be treated. “Would he want to be treated aggressively or would he want to be kept comfortable?” My sister looked at me and said, “How would we know what Dad would want? Isn’t the doctor supposed know what is best for a patient?” At which point my brother jumps in with, “Why are we even being asked about this? Dad would definitely want everything possible done. This is crazy!” “The doctor asked if Dad has an ‘Advance Care Plan’. I don’t even know what that is”.

The words of my siblings fade as my mind shifted to thoughts of Mom and Dad. Mom had died 5 years ago. At that time, I simply got a call from Dad informing me of her death. Dad is 92 years old. He had been physically active – golf in the summer months, curling through the winter and acted as the secretary of the local historical society until he was 90. The last two years however have not been kind to Dad. His eyesight and hearing, both failing resulted in him becoming increasingly isolated from the activities that had made his life so full. The last two years he had stopped golfing and curling. He had lost his confidence. At one point a year ago, he even mentioned that he was simply waiting until “it is time to be with your mother again.”

I found myself wishing that somehow, as a family, we could have had some conversation with Dad. Maybe Dad saying that he was simply waiting until it is time to be with Mom again was his way of trying to open up this conversation. If only we had not been afraid to have this discussion. If only.

April 16 has been declared National Advance Care Planning Day in Canada. Advance Care Planning is about having conversations with the person, or people who will make decisions for you if you are unable to speak for yourself. By reflecting on your own values, beliefs and wishes and having open, thoughtful discussions with your loved ones who will act as your Substitute Decision Maker, you will help them if they find themselves in a situation where they are being asked by a doctor or other health care professional about difficult decisions that may need to be made in such situations as the case of my 92 year old Dad.

The link below is a booklet that provides information on how to think about and approach these important conversations. Please take a few moments to look through this material. Imagine the peace of mind knowing that you are able to provide voice to a loved one.

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Sacred Time and the Gift of Singing

By: Meredith Hill, Hospice Peterborough Volunteer

The Borland family lives across the road and we’ve only known them in a way that’s slightly more than acquaintances. However, in the last four years we have watched as Margaret, the matriarch in her eighties, struggled with and succumbed to Alzheimer’s. Though her children and their families had moved into the house for support, even their whole tribe was no longer able to provide for her and keep her safe and the decision was made for her to go to Fairhaven for care.

I was surprised when her husband, Wimpy, came to me, weeping that this had been the worst day of his life. After that opening, there were several conversations with different family members as they struggled with her decline and when she was transferred to hospital and then the palliative ward. The vigil began and we observed the gathering of the clan and the all night and all day comings and goings.

When we received the call that Margaret had died, I crossed the street and was welcomed into one of those sacred places where people were open in their mourning and storytelling …and I was privileged to just be there with them. One of the stories they told was the visit of the Bedside Singers. They knew of the connection I have with Hospice and asked me to tell everyone there how wonderful their visit had been.

The Borland’s have been key members of Saint James United Church since they were married there 65 years ago. Christian hymns are their language of sacred time. Margaret was no longer speaking when the Singers came to the ward that evening but as they sang, her family watched in awe as she began to mouth the words along with them. And that fully churched family joined in the singing in what became for them a tremendously meaningful time.

By the next day, as Margaret was clearly weaker, the fully gathered family went back to that experience with the Singers and began themselves to sing the hymns and songs that were part of their lifeblood. They’re not entirely sure at what point in the singing Margaret actually breathed her last breath, but they know that their gift of presence and music were important parts of her good death. They wanted Hospice to know the gift of those singers being there had meant so much to Margaret, who could not say thank you. The whole family very warmly extends their thanks.

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In-ground concrete pillars

The large hole-digging machine has been at work for the past week – digging holes for the in-ground concrete pillars that will support the new resident care facility alongside newly renovated Heeney House. See below for a batch of photos to document the work. [showhide type=”post”]

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The big machine is here!

The long anticipated, huge digging machine arrived yesterday. This machine will be digging the holes for the large concrete foundation pillars for the new resident care building next to renovated Heeney House. In the following video, you can see the machine at work.

Early next week I will post more images of the holes being dug and filled with concrete and rebar – quite an operation! If you want to see the machine in action, it should be onsite at least until the end of this week. [showhide type=”post”]

 

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Entire footprint of new building revealing itself

In the past 72hrs, workers have been busy digging out the remaining footprint of the new building that is being built beside Heeney House. The new building will come right up to London Street and to the south, will turn to the left forming an L-shape. To see the floor plan of the new building, check out page 4 of the January 2017 case for support. The new building will house the new 10 bed hospice care unit that will enable Hospice Peterborough to offer another choice for care at end of life. The once free-standing concrete foundation has been lined with insulation and is now being buried with fresh gravel. Enjoy the latest photos and short video! [showhide type=”post”]

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Foundation walls poured

Hello construction bloggers,

Today’s entry brings you up-to-date on the foundation for the new 10-bed care unit. Concrete was poured last Monday with the same long-arm concrete pouring truck that poured the initial foundation (see February 6 blog entry titled “Pouring concrete!”). As of this morning, all the concrete forms have been removed (see photos below). I’m sure the  warm weather over the past week helped with a quick set of the concrete. Some rigid blue insulation arrived at the site in the past 24hrs…so insulating the concrete walls and continuing with the taller elevator shaft are likely the next steps. [showhide type=”post”]

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The Water is Wide: A Bedside Singers Story

By: Judy Foster, Hospice Peterborough Volunteer and Bedside Singer

Today three of us sang on the [Peterborough Regional Health Centre Palliative Care] unit.

We were welcomed into a number of rooms and sang in one of the halls. There was a couple who were celebrating their 65th wedding anniversary with friends scattered around the room. The patient’s husband shared with us that music has been a big part of their life – they used to go to all the Peterborough Pop Ensemble sings. Then we were asked to sing Christmas carols to a woman in the next room. Her son was standing in the hall across from her room – the door was closed with a sign saying “no visitors.” We were invited in and sang her favorite Go Tell it On the Mountain and then we sang Silent Night!

We sang to a man and his two visitors. As we were leaving he asked me if I knew his mother, he gave me her name, and said she had been very musical, played guitar, and had died a year ago at the hospital. Another man and his visitor kept thanking us; I noticed his feet were moving to the beat and he even joined in singing on a couple of the songs. We sang to two women in the same room, to whom we had sung to before; they said they enjoyed our singing very much.

For me the most touching moment was when we sang in a room to a husband and wife. While we were singing The Water is Wide the husband moved his chair closer to the bed so he could hold his wife’s hand. She was 97 and he was 90 – with teary eyes he thanked us for our songs.