Hospice offers immeasurable gifts
As the Hospice Society of the Columbia Valley prepares for its 6th annual Butterfly Barn Dance fundraiser, the society’s vice president Daneve McAffer paused to reflect on the value hospice provides.
Through her previous career as a physiotherapist who provided home care support and her role with hospice, Ms. McAffer has born witness as many of her clients came to the end of their lives. Including family members she’s lost, she estimates having supported 20 people through their final transition.
“In our society in North America we don’t face the possibility of losing our life easily,” she said. “Hospice allows us to go in and be with people – walk with them, actually – as they are suffering an illness that is going to end their life.”
When it comes to the end of their time on earth, most of the people she supports are able to accept their fate and let go gently.
“I don’t see a lot of pain in people when they die,” she said. “Many people, I find, die in peace.”
She considers it a gift “to have that privilege to be with someone at the end of their life” as it encourages her to consider her own mortality and practice tenderness and kindness.
In addition to supporting those at the end of their lives, Ms. McAffer is also a bereavement volunteer and offers herself as a shoulder for those left behind.
“Often having someone outside that nuclear family or that unit coming in that can listen to what you’re going through and be there to support you is very beneficial,” she said. “I find the journey incredibly moving as they move from not
being able to talk at all about loss to be able to engage again in a new normal for themselves without that person in their life physically.”
Ms. McAffer said she receives many blessings from the bereaved as she supports them in their mourning.
“I have cried with them, I’ve laughed with them, and I feel it’s a wonderful gift that they’ve given me to allow me to be with them as they… navigate the forest of grief and loss,” she said. “If you don’t express your grief, you just push it down and it never goes away… It stops you in many cases from moving forward and engaging in what gives you joy.”
Like a widow who “didn’t need me anymore in her life,” eventually Ms. McAffer’s clients are able to move on and let go of hospice supports they required in the earlier stages of their healing.
“It’s joyful. I just feel so much gratitude that this has happened for them and they can now sever (the hospice relationship) because now they can stand alone. I have so much joy for them,” she said.
The Hospice Society of the Columbia Valley offers in-home visits for those with terminal diagnoses, programs to support the bereaved and educational initiatives. Ms. McAffer said the hospice society is also working on expanding its services into the local school system to serve young people who have lost friends or family members.
A husband cherished
Heather McLeod, 38, became a widow and single mother last September when her husband Brock – her beloved partner for over 11 years – passed away from an aggressive form of kidney cancer.
As the first anniversary of her husband’s death approaches, Ms. McLeod alternates between tears and wide smiles as she shares happy memories of the man she loved to the very end. As long as they were together, the couple sought to fulfill each other’s dreams – from renting a penthouse suite overlooking the ocean, to starting an organic farm in Cowichan, to taking a road trip straight across the country.
After Brock’s death, Ms. McLeod and her son Isaac returned to Invermere, where she had grown up and where her family remained.
“When I was preparing to move here, the first thing I did was look up Hospice and see what resources they have for people who are grieving,” she said.
The 12-week bereavement support group she attended offered useful strategies and gentle support to help her cope, she said. It also connected her with others who had endured deep losses.
“Grief is a very isolating experience so to be in a room with people who are all experiencing their own kinds of grief makes you feel less alone,” she said.
As Ms. McLeod builds a new life with Isaac, she’s taking care to fill it with the things they love most: Lego, bright colours, adventures, dance parties, family time and frequent stops to dig in the sand.
They’re moving into a new house soon – one her father is helping her build – and will be bringing Brock’s special chair with them, a cozy corduroy recliner that will always hold the softest of memories within its arms.
Butterfly Barn Dance
The 6th annual Butterfly Barn Dance will take place on Saturday, September 22nd at Fairmont Hot Springs Resort with music by Valley Forged.
The barn dance will include a barbecue roast beef dinner with a vegetarian option available. It will also include silent and live auctions. The dance goes until midnight but guests can keep the party going all night by reserving a discounted room at the resort.
“We have a lot of fun and people dance all night. It’s great music,” Ms. McAffer said.
She is looking forward to: “people coming in and really enjoying themselves and a celebration of what Hospice does here in the Valley.”
The Butterfly Barn Dance is a vital fundraiser for the hospice society, which offers its services for free.
Tickets are $50 and can be purchased in Invermere at the hospice office, Sobeys or Circle Cafe and in Fairmont at the Purple Cow.
For more information about the Hospice Society of the Columbia Valley, visit www.hospicesocietycv.com.