You Are Not Alone, by Lisa Browning
On July 16, 2015, my father took me out for dinner to celebrate my birthday, as he did every year. Ten days later, he collapsed in his home, and was taken to hospital by ambulance. Dad was 94 years old at the time, and still living alone. Although he had been doing remarkably well for the most part, recently we (his children) had noticed a rapid decline. After a week in the hospital, Dad’s condition worsened. We knew that he did not want any extraordinary measures taken to prolong his life, and the treatment at the hospital was very invasive, due to the type of medication that he required. We made the very difficult decision to discontinue all medication and to provide palliative care. On August 3, we made an application to hospice on his behalf, and Dad was transported to Hospice Wellington the next day. From the moment I walked in the door of Hospice Wellington, I sensed beauty and peace. My father received phenomenal care, and it made his last days so much easier, for him and for our family. One of the very first questions we were asked, by one of the amazingly compassionate and generous volunteers, was “Would your father like some Therapeutic Touch?” Our response was, of course, a resounding “Yes, please!” My brother, sister-in-law and I orchestrated a 24-hour vigil, so that Dad would not be alone. We wouldn’t have been able to do this, if it weren’t for Hospice Wellington. Because we spent so much time there, we were able to share some very special moments with Dad. One in particular stands out in my mind. As is common, I’m told, when it came closer to the end, Dad perked up from a state of semi-consciousness, sat up straight in bed, asked for his glasses, and watched television with us, laughing and smiling, and looking us in the eye, totally alert and aware. We had brought our dinner into his room, and we ate it while sitting around his bed. I will never forget the gift of that evening. Because of this, and so many other gifts that Hospice Wellington provided, I wanted to do something special, as a token of my gratitude. And so, as a publisher, the idea of putting together an anthology of “stories of hope” came to mind. I was so very grateful to have 52 writers, who generously gave of their time and talents to be a part of this book. Not only did I have the gift of being able to put this volume together; I also received a totally unexpected gift, shortly after I began promotion. As a result of an article printed in a local newspaper, I received the following email: I met your wonderful father and his lovely companion Joyce on a vacation to St. Maarten in 2011. We stayed in touch by telephone as we live in London. They travelled the following year and departed from London airport. We met them for dinner the evening before and I picked them up at London airport upon their return. Unfortunately, they were staying at a small hotel in London and I have never stopped regretting the fact that I did not bring them to my home. They were adamant they would stay at the hotel and it turned out they were very cold!!! I have not communicated in a couple of years with either Joyce or your father, but I often think of them. I am playing on my computer and now see your father's obituary. I am sorry for your loss of a wonderful man. I was sure he would see 100. I must tell you that they were so inspirational to my husband and me. We are so honoured to have met them and shared a couple visits with them. The fact that your father was still volunteering for Meals on Wheels, driving to Oakville every second weekend, and walking his dog daily was so impressive. We will always remember a special man we met on vacation, still travelling at 90 years old. I connected with the writer of this email, who gave me permission to reprint her words. I feel very strongly about the power of telling our stories. This is just another example of the gifts that can come from doing so. One hundred percent of proceeds from the sale of this book are being donated directly to Hospice Wellington, together with my heartfelt thanks. Donations to date are just under $5,000. There are still copies available, and I would love to be able to sell out! If you’re looking for a unique Christmas gift, that is also making a difference in this world, consider purchasing a copy (or two!). They are available online at www.ottbookstore.com, or at Hospice Wellington, located at 795 Scottsdale Drive in Guelph.