At 58 years of age, my mom got lost in the local Tsawwassen mall, which is not very large, and she wasn’t able to find her car. We took her right away to Delta Hospital where she got a scan – and we were blindsided by her diagnosis of stage 4 lung cancer with metastases to the brain.
Her diagnosis was crushing emotionally and made us all feel like our world was ending. I felt like, on top of losing her, so much of our lives would die with her when she died, like the history of our lives would somehow be lost. Mom was the gatekeeper to so many memories that no one else would remember like her. She wouldn’t know me as my more adult self, never see me get married, or get to see me deliver my firstborn child.
As her illness progressed, and the caregiving need increased, it was a gift to be able to be there for her like that – but it was emotionally hard. We had to learn as we went.
The emotional, physical and spiritual journey that loss takes us on was all new. Losing someone as significant as your parent so early requires a lot of support and resources. I used the hospice resources – their grief counsellors, and the library full of books – to try to get me ready for the process of her death. Our family went to yoga there. In the beginning stages, it was a lifeline.
When we together as a family had the talk about her end-of-life plan, none of us wanted to make the excruciating process any harder. We didn’t want her suffering further by having her struggle through the loss of her dignity and the pain of losing her capacity. She didn’t want that.
She wanted to die in the wonderful setting of the hospice and to have the option of easing her suffering through medically assisted dying, if she needed it. She wanted that process to be sacred and special. Terminal cancer can change in the blink of an eye, and we took the time to plan and prepare to follow her wishes for her own end-of-life care. It only added to our family’s grief that the hospice would not be able to provide access to all of the care options my mother may have needed.
I am speaking out because my mother volunteered for over a decade as a team leader at the Delta Hospice thrift store. She believed in being part of a community that helps support families in their hardest hour. She believed in not having people be in pain at end of life, and believed they should have access to a supportive home-like environment. She made volunteering at the thrift store a family affair by recruiting my twin sister and I to volunteer there, too. We agreed that we were all building something special.
Please sign up as a member to help keep this special place a community-based organization that allows people to have the choice to die with dignity.