These are days of mixed blessings. Of joy and sorrow walking hand and hand, alleviating fear, giving light to darkness.
TP, of whom I've written several times, sharing the triumphs and sadness of his battle with cancer moved to a hospice yesterday. Our goal had been to have him live at the shelter until the end, but we could not provide him the level of care he needs to sustain his quality of life. To provide him the dignity he deserves. We do not have the resources.
I was there when we told him the news. He knew it was coming. He has been struggling with certain aspects of his condition that he knew we could not address compassionately and effectively. It has left him feeling distressed. Earlier that morning, one of our staff had spent a couple of hours with him addressing a situation that was recurring all too frequently due to the disease's advances.
"This isn't right," she'd said. "This shouldn't be happening to you."
He knew it but he didn't want to face it. To make it right, he had to be somewhere he could receive more in-depth and focused care.
When our Medical Administrator came to my office to tell me what was happening and that she was going to tell him there was a hospice bed waiting for him at 3 that afternoon, I asked if she wanted me to be with her.
"Yes please," she quickly replied.
We walked down to the fourth floor from my 6th floor office. He wasn't in his room. We knew where to find him. He was sitting on the smoke deck of the 4th floor, enjoying the sun and his favourite vice -- a cigarette. One of our nursing team was with him.
C.B., our Medical Administrator told him the news as gently as she could, but it still felt cold, clinical.
"It's today then?" TP asked.
"Yes," she replied. "I'll go with you. Is there anyone else you want there?"
He looked at me.
I smiled. "I'll be there."
When I walked in later that afternoon, TP had already checked in and gone off to the patio for... a cigarette. I smiled. "Of course he's not in his room," I said to the woman at the reception desk. "He gets around that TP!" And I went off to find him sitting in the sun, the brakes locked on his wheelchair, his frail body encompassed in a heavy jacket.
"I'm supervising," he said as he pointed to a couple of men stapling shingles to the roof of an adjoining building to the hospice.
"How are they doing?"
"Not bad." He paused. "This isn't the building I worked on the roof of," he told me. "This one seems nice."
He had been afraid. He'd worked on a hospice's roof some years ago and didn't like what he saw.
Relieved this wasn't 'the place', I wheeled him back to the room where CB was still organizing his belongings.
"Did you send this over?" she asked me, pointing to a large poster board framed in a western themed border. It stood on an easel beside TP's bed. The large print heading read, Welcome TP. On it, someone had pasted photos of TP they'd found online. Photos from the Calgary Herald. A photo from our website including one of the shelter. It was beautiful.
"No," I replied. Later we'd learn that the Admin Assistant, knowing of TP's arrival that day, had taken the time to prepare the welcome board.
It was a beautiful gesture.
And so, TP has moved from the shelter. I know he is being well-cared for. I know he will have people around him who understand, who will be able to provide him what he needs to spend however long he has left with dignity, pride and peace.
Something that delighted him -- two small dogs wander the halls, moving in and out of the rooms, checking up on the people in their care.
He is in a very very caring place. I know these things and still, I am awash in the mixed blessing of this event.
For us, we have had the privilege of being part of TPs journey. Today, it is good to know he is being cared for, provided for, taken care of with the level of care he needs.
Yet, it is sad to know we cannot give him everything he needs to stay at the shelter.
It is a time to adapt, to shift perceptions, to change glasses and find the gift in this circumstance. When I left, TP was surrounded by people interested in his care, wanting to do the best for him, able to give him everything he needs.
As I walked out the door of his lovely room that has a large picture window looking out towards the mountains, another staff member arrived.
This is a tough change to accept we agreed -- tougher on TP. Yet, looking back, seeing him sitting in his wheelchair surrounded by women, a dog cradled in the arms of one of the nurses, I felt the energy of the place surround me.
It is a place of comfort, of peace, of hope. And, regardless of the change, TP is still the same and we will continue to visit, to play a part of his journey until we no longer can.
And so.... the blessings of the day. Yesterday we finished the video highlights of the WHERE book launch event. I've embedded it below -- and yes, the Alexis McDonald reading part of her contribution to the book is my eldest daughter :)
WHERE book launch Highlights