The EFC is inviting Canadians to share Your Stories of Palliative Care, as we launch the Palliative Care Toolkit, a resource to encourage discussion and help equip Canadians in dealing with serious illness. Contact us to submit your palliative care story. We would be honoured to hear it and share it.
By Janice McAdam
I have had the privilege to attend and be part of palliative care twice so far. The mother of my friend who led me to a saving knowledge of Jesus was in a nursing home following a stroke. As I went to visit more during her last days, I would sing old hymns for her and read Scripture. On the final night, my friend was informed that her mother may not see tomorrow, so I stayed with my friend and her mom at the bedside until her last breath.
I know she was heading for Jesus. Her race had been completed, and I'm sure she was greeted with, "Well done." My friend was having difficulty letting her mother go so I encouraged her to do the most difficult thing she would have to do. I said, "It's your mom's time. It's close. Please tell her that it's OK. Give her permission to see Jesus. She's holding on because she doesn't think you or your siblings will be OK without her."
I held my friend, she said what was necessary, and her mom just gently stopped breathing. Jesus blessed us too by us not having to view her gasping for air to remain with us.
Then, my very best friend on earth who I met in a Presbyterian church choir way back before I met Jesus was born with a physical, neurological issue. It never affected her brain, but it did put her in her wheelchair permanently along the way. When I met her, she was able to walk with assistance, ride an adult tricycle, ride horses, do and teach yoga, be on stage, etc.
Janice McAdam (at right) with friend Lisa.
Photo supplied by Janice McAdam.
Quite frankly, I only ever saw her wheelchair as an apparatus necessary to help her get around physically. She was very creative, intellectually and biblically brilliant, funny, serious, opinionated with the ability to accept yours if it differed. She radiated love, Jesus and a positive attitude. She lived on her own, doing her own care for quite some time until Jesus sent a husband and they married in 1988.
I moved from where I met her to where her family moved with her in 2011 so I could spend as much time with her as possible. She had been declining in spurts over the years, and she had already lived well beyond human expectancy. We had a standing "sleepover" date on Friday nights once I moved there.
In July of 2014, my friend began to decline rapidly and had been housebound for about a year or more by then. Although she could no longer attend church, her faith never wavered. We had deep conversations and invited Jesus to be with us in all we said and did. This was church!!
By December of 2014, it was evident that she would not recover, and a DNR was posted inside their unit. About mid-December she asked if I would go home, pack a bag, assist her husband and move in until it was over. Yes, it was very difficult, but I also felt extremely blessed that she would ask me. There was no hesitation.
One of the hardest conversations was when she asked, "Am I really going to die this time?" But there were so many opportunities to uplift her and make her last days more comfortable. I read the Daily Bread to her often and didn't stop until she asked. We didn't really pay attention to the "day." Morphine was added, which her husband administered, and we took shifts in sleeping so someone was always alert.
Yes, it was difficult, but she was able to stay at home which had been her biggest fear. Having to leave what she knew to go to hospital was beyond her ability to even think, let alone endure. I was with her to write down her final requests, what she wanted to wear (including jewelry), who she wanted certain treasured possessions to go to, etc. Things her husband knew about but was unable to write for her due to the level of emotional intimacy involved.
He had intently prayed, upon their 20th wedding anniversary, that the Lord would sustain her until they reached their 25th anniversary. He was fully aware, prior to marriage, that her condition could deteriorate at any time.
The Lord granted his petition and they were on the brink of their 27th anniversary when she passed -- something that her husband treasures to this day. We are still close friends. Her final few days saw an increase in morphine, almost daily home visits from the doctor and then she took her final breath. It was so peaceful that all I heard was a sigh. I sat for a few seconds to see if it was the final sigh.
The Lord blessed me in being able to sing the hymn she requested me to sing at her funeral. I still miss her deeply but know in my heart she is the ballerina she always wanted to be and is surrounded by the arms of God. I also know from God's Word that we will be together forever.
Have you witnessed the difference palliative care made for a loved one? If you have an experience that you’d be willing to share on the EFC’s platform, email us to tell us about it. To say thank you, we’ll give you a free one-year subscription to Faith Today, Canada’s Christian magazine, where subscribers can read stories like this recent feature on palliative care.