Healing while living and dying in Vancouver
In the world of end-of-life care in Vancouver BC, an interesting intersection exists between bureaucratic policies and New Age gurus selling answers to life’s heartaches.
Sue Hurd and Sue Wong have created this intersection between compassion, acceptance, and simply being. Hurd and Wong have spent over a decade with Vancouver's dying citizens, helping and supporting those who are leaving their lives behind. In the process, they have created a movement with the help of countless dedicated volunteers. This movement became The Vancouver Hospice Society.
Through fundraising efforts over the past decade, the volunteers of The VHS have raised millions of dollars and built an innovative hospice that is designed as a home away from home. This hospice will be opening before the winter.
When I first met Wong and Hurd, it was through the context of “Healing Touch.” They would come and visit my mom as she was dying at home. They taught me that dying can be about living. You can still make memories as you prepare for the end.
Their healing work was calming and accepting. Since my mother was a skeptical academic, she appreciated that she did not need to adopt a religious or spiritual belief system, in order to receive the benefits of this gift.
When my mother was in her last hours of life, I called Sue Wong to come by the palliative care ward at St. Paul's Hospital. The healing touch work that she gave my mother provided peace and calmness. My mother shifted from a place of fearing the end to a place where she could absorb the love surrounding her as she died.
It is inspiring and uplifting to think about what volunteers like Sue Wong and Sue Hurd have accomplished for end of life care in Vancouver.
Volunteers like Wong and Hurd make a big difference and address aspects of dying that are overlooked by our health care system. When there is more support outside of task-based care, there is a possibility for dying patients to make peace with the life they are leaving behind. For the caregiver, there is a possibility to slow down, prevent PTSD, and find ways to say good-bye.
If we want to be a compassionate city and care for our dying citizens, we need to increase training and improve access to the wealth of qualified hospice volunteers in Vancouver. We can make big improvements by finding more ways to incorporate hospice non-profit programs and hospice volunteers as an interwoven component of our palliative home care systems.