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 Melissa Wallace
As boisterous shouts of Happy New Year! rang through the hospital corridor, a nurse hurried into our palliative care room and quietly said, “I’ll just close the door. Not everyone realizes that there are others going through a hard time right now.”
That Jan. 1, 2013, my father, sister and our husbands surrounded my mom, who was hooked up to a ventilator and hadn’t opened her eyes since the day before. Our room was made as comfortable as it could be. Nurses provided a few extra chairs (a welcome relief!) and the day before, our extended family had decorated the room with streamers and balloons, hoping my mom would wake up to a cheerful scene. My mother had been in and out of the hospital for months prior, and when she began to have problems breathing after Christmas, we were upgraded to the palliative care room.
The team had explained what would happen in her final days and gave an accurate timeline. Thanks to their knowledge, we were able to gather her family and close friends to tell her how much she meant to them while she was still lucid. And when she was in excruciating pain on Dec. 31, they were able to ease her discomfort.
We spent all of Jan. 1 at her bedside, taking turns holding my mother’s hands, praying, singing worship songs and sharing favourite memories we had with her. Though my mom didn’t open her eyes, we noticed a stronger heartbeat as we talked and sang, and occasionally she would faintly squeeze our hands.
Then on Jan. 2, my beautiful, 63-year-old mother left our grasp and entered into the arms of Jesus Christ.
It can be hard to cope with the grief that follows when you lose someone you love, but I knew my mom had led a full life. After she was diagnosed, she told us she wanted to fight her cancer so she could spread the gospel. And for years after, she was an encouragement to friends, family and strangers in the hospital, never hesitating to tell them about Jesus. After her funeral, I received an email from someone who had shared a hospital room with my mom. The woman spoke about how she was going to try church to keep her promise to my mom and wrote, “I still remember hearing your mom sing ‘Jesus Loves Me’ to herself at night.”
My mom’s final moments were peaceful, thanks to the palliative care team and to those who prayed for our family. Though we will always miss her presence, we find comfort in knowing she is free of suffering, surrounded by God’s love.
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.