In speaking with Rebecca Smith, Executive Director of Surrey Hospice and President of the Cloverdale District Chamber of Commerce, I was reminded that death is a one-way trip that we do our best to avoid discussing.
Years after the death of my own mother, I still mourn that I, an only child, was completely unaware of how to navigate the heartbreaking inevitability of the end of life in a way that would help us both. Rebecca, whose 21-year-old brother died 25 years ago three months after being diagnosed with cancer, empathized.
When tragedy struck their family, Rebecca told me that emergency help, information and other skilled insightful help was not offered or available. The stunned family (which included a six-year-old child) dealt with their pain and grief privately, internally.
“I was shocked and appalled at how little I knew. I don’t want to see another family go through this…ever,” she says emphatically.
With a background in organizational management, public relations and volunteerism, Rebecca decided to explore ways to redirect her business training and painful family experience. She was convinced that the ‘Go home. Be ready. We need that the chamber message his grieving family received at VGH should and could be shunned by others.
“Guilt can keep you stuck. It’s really hard to get over the guilt,” she recalls. “I just wanted to do more. I had no idea what hospice was. I thought it was just where people were going to die.
Years later, after related training and on-site experience, Rebecca Smith is adamant that the need for Surrey Hospice not only remains intact, but is growing.
“We are a company, not a residence. Everyone is welcome with us. Trained grief counselors are available to meet with people of all ages. Everyone grieves differently, especially children,” she explains. “Children are often forgotten or misunderstood when heartbreak occurs. Managing injuries in this age range requires unique insight and specialized training.
Surrey Hospice’s palliative care team works closely with Laurel Place, Fraser Health’s long-term care home near Surrey Memorial Hospital. Palliative support here is tailored to individuals based on what society can offer. There are also inheritance counseling programs. During COVID these have been suspended, but access to services is starting to open up.
Surrey Hospice is also a not-for-profit corporation with a plethora of ongoing palliative care needs. Volunteers are invaluable, as is the support of organizations like Surrey Fire Fighters and Surrey Teachers’ Association.
Smith hopes the annual free one-day public lecture, The Beginning Of A Conversation, usually held at Kwantlen Polytechnic University on 72nd Avenue, Surrey, will happen again soon. This event features up to 25 speakers, an exhibit showcasing a wealth of background information, including end-of-life planning, executor services, and other relevant topics.
Registrations for Surrey Hospice’s webinars during COVID have increased and are valuable informal approaches to helping people, especially through “trigger events” such as Valentine’s Day, Christmas, Father’s Day without father, other “name” days and the winter doldrums.
A Zoom Skip the Dishes dinner, craft workshops and small group dinners encouraged people to connect.
“Laughter is an important part of grieving. It’s not just about body parts and scans and rules,” says Smith.
To support the hospice, one can visit the Surrey Hospice / Surrey Fire Fighters Charitable Society store at 7138 King George Blvd., Surrey 604-599-9930 (closed Sundays).
For more information about the Surrey Hospice Society, visit surreyhospice.com or call 604 584 7006.
Ursula Maxwell-Lewis is the founding publisher and managing editor of The Cloverdale Reporter. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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