Not a just a place to go and die but somewhere to live out your remaining time in the embrace of the warmth and caring of compassionate people.
That was Roland Kruger’s surprising realization of what Moog and Friends Hospice House was really all about shortly after his mother, who had terminal cancer, moved there in 2014.
In fact, Kruger’s family has twice in the last three years been stricken with the sadness of terminal illness, his father passing way at Moog and Friends in 2016.
“A first, from the outside looking in, we all have a certain view of dying and death and obviously it’s a negative thing in our lives and hospice as well, that’s a place where people go and die but it’s just so much more,” said Kruger. “It’s a place where people can spend the last part of their life in dignity and families as well. The staff and volunteers take such good care. It’s just remarkable. It really changed my perception of what hospice is really all about.”
He recalled the time when the difficult decision was made to move his mother to a care facility for her remaining time on earth.
“The shock of terminal illness and end of life always leads to the question of ‘what now?’ and as a family, we did not know where to turn,” said Kruger.
It was then they learned about the Penticton and District Hospice Society and Moog and Friends.
Not surprising, his mother was extremely hesitant at first about moving into the house but that soon changed.
“The entire staff, from the nurses, care aides, doctors, and remarkable volunteers provide an environment that made the palliative care program a journey that was shared together as a family with support the entire way,” he said. “We were always visiting and there were always people around she had more visitors and more interaction with people than she would ever have had at home.
“In the end, she knew everybody by name. It really was as positive experience as you could imagine for people who are near end of life.”
In recognition of the work the 70 volunteers of the Penticton and District Hospice Society do on a daily basis, they were named the first winners of the Volunteer Group of the Year Award for 2016 by the South Okanagan and Similkameen Volunteer Centre.
Gail Thomas is just one of those many volunteers.
Struggling with her daughter Stephanie’s impending death in 2005, it was that love and compassion of hospice volunteers that made Thomas want to give back in the only way she could.
Stephanie, who was 18 at the time was in the final stages of her illness when she was moved to Moog and Friends to live out her remaining days.
“The sense of refuge and peace are evident as soon as you enter the house,” said Thomas. “Their compassion and care for each of us, and especially for Stephanie, was very comforting. The house became a gathering place for all who cared for and loved Stephanie.”
Having volunteered for the last seven years at Hospice House Mary Anne Gordon described her time as: “Given the opportunity to hold hands, sit and chat, to sing and to dance. All while receiving a grateful smile, laughter and a hug. I truly get back more than I can possibly give out. It’s an overwhelming experience.
“Occasionally I sit and remember many of the patients who have become a part of my life. Frequently our relationship is only for a short period. Often we have time to become friends.
“Life is a mystery. None of us know the many experiences we shall have. The volunteers at hospice house, share the best of themselves to assist in living well, right to the end.”
Longtime volunteer Susan Brown also learned about Moog and Friends at a difficult time, when her husband, who also had terminal cancer, became one of the first residents of Hospice House 19 years ago.
“Needless to say it was a very difficult time for us and our three young children,” she wrote about her experience. “In the face of all our struggles, the staff of the house brought compassion professionalism and support into an otherwise grim time.
“(As a volunteer) it has been an honour and a privilege to be part of someone’s very personal and intimate end-of-life journey.
“One day we will all be at the end of our earthly journey and I for one am thankful to be part of a community that has such a safe haven of hospice.”