'Each human should die with the sight of a loving face.'
Hi! My name is Jackie. To be honest, death has always been around me. I was raised by a mother and father who lost a child. Christopher was 12 hours old when he passed, I was two. This shaped the way I was raised and how I would perceive, relate, and interact to death and the dying.
My mother Barbara taught me early on to 'show up and be present’. Through her example over the many years, I have been able to do just that. I have honored many loved ones, friends and acquaintances who have passed along with the loved ones left to carry on.
When it was her turn at 58 years old, diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer. She asked me to be by her side through the experience. I had no idea what to do or what to expect, but gladly took the gift of being part of her sacred journey. My Mom spent 101 days in hospice! I look back now and wonder if she held on so long because no one really understood what she needed to do to let go? I would rather believe that she stayed so I could learn through her one last gift to carry on and assist others. I was able to focus on a side of death that in our current culture we have learned to fear and run from. The beauty and grace. The fact remains we are all going to die. Why shouldn’t we have a good death?
What did I do? I listened when others could not hear, held space for what my mom couldn’t share out loud. I read when she needed a story to help ease her periods of unrest. Brought her flowers, stuffed animals, photos, favourite foods, and drinks anything she would enjoy in her final days. I watched old TCM Movies with her; watching her move her foot to the music through the dance routines puts a smile on my face even now. I provided anything she needed and a lot more she didn’t realize she wanted. I wanted to make sure she had a good death not for me but for her. That also included recognizing when it was time for loved ones to recharge, I provided respite. I also was the one to recognize when it was time to talk about letting her go. That is what she asked of me, expected of me, her wishes. I held her strength when she was too weak to say she has had enough. I was truly humbled by the whole experience. I felt a pull towards the experience for the first time in my life, it felt more like a calling. It pushed itself through stronger than the grief that I was going to have to experience. I was part of a scared journey, it felt natural and right so much in fact that I committed to my mother, when the time came, and I had learned how to live with holding space for grief; I would find my place in helping others at the end of life.
In 2016 I left Alberta and moved to Prince George, B.C. on my own. This is where I would open myself up to volunteering for the Prince George Hospice Palliative Care Society. In my time there I was able to experience all stages of the dying and their loved ones. I guided with legacy work, final projects for lasting memories, provided meaningful conversations, and holding space for the guests and their loved ones in the final days and hours including holding vigil. This was the time to see if it was really a calling. My best days were when I included my time at the hospice, and I was there as much as I could. I was even on a “call” sheet to contact if they had no volunteer. I embraced the opportunity to maximize my time there to learn all I could.
In 2021 I completed the recognized End -of -Life Doula program through Douglas College. In completing this program it allowed me to learn the additional skill sets needed to answer the call to the dying. The next couple of years would be spent volunteering my services to the Vanderhoof Hospice Society.
In late 2023 my husband and I decided it was time to leave Vanderhoof, British Columbia to put some roots down. We now reside in Prince George, British Columbia with our fur babies.