Jocelyn House shelters the dying
By Lindor Reynolds, Winnipeg Free Press, June 15, 2012
There was no singing to celebrate what would have been Jocelyn Hutton’s 50th birthday.
A small cake with candles sat on the dining room table. A Happy Birthday banner was taped to the wall. Several smiling women, none of whom knew Hutton, gathered. In a room down the hall, behind a closed door, there was the soft sound of weeping.
After Jocelyn Hutton died in 1980, her parents moved out and turned their family home into a hospice. Jocelyn House became a place where other terminally ill people could live out their final months.
Even as the candles were being lit on the cake, a family was mourning the death of a hospice resident. The timing of the Thursday morning party and the overlapping death are part of the cycle of the home.
“It is a sad time,” says Kyla Wiebe, development manager for the Jocelyn Hutton Foundation, speaking of the inevitable death of residents.
“But there’s a sense of being prepared. They’ve had that chance to say what needs to be said. When you get to that point, it’s a different kind of sadness.”
John Hutton describes his late sister as a homebody with a great circle of friends at Kelvin High School. Her diagnosis of bone marrow cancer, followed rapidly by the amputation of her leg, shook the family to its core. By the time she was diagnosed, the cancer had already spread to her lungs.
They learned she had cancer in June. By October, the family knew she was terminally ill. She passed away in April.
“Initially it (Jocelyn’s illness) probably brought us closer,” Hutton says. His older foster brother, Ed Zeglen, was already living on his own. Hutton was adventuring, hitchhiking across half of Canada at 16 and across the second half at 17.
“I was ready to go up North for work,” he says. “I stayed back. Ed came over more. I very consciously made some changes myself. I couldn’t take the same risks because they were already losing one child.
“I was able to face my own mortality through someone else.”
Jocelyn died in her bedroom at home. Her parents, Miriam and Bill, donated their lovely split-level house and set up Jocelyn House.
“It’s a great place for the soul,” Hutton says. “It was a great house to grow up in.”
The couple bought another home but their marriage soon ended, a result of the strain of losing a child.
Jocelyn House, which can support up to four residents at a time, sits on a sprawling lot on the bank of the Seine River. Sitting on the back deck, you could be at a cottage.
The hospice has a $650,000 annual budget, 47 per cent of which comes from the WRHA. It depends on grants and private donations for the rest. The budget covers staffing, meals, overhead and the costs of maintaining the house. Financial donations are down this year.
A lot of work is done by volunteers.
Margaret Haugen, the hospice’s executive director, says Jocelyn House offers residents the chance to die at home. She has a favourite quote:
“When we enter the world we are surrounded by love, comfort and care. Don’t we deserve the same when we leave?”
The majority of residents have cancer and are between 55 and 60. The youngest was 42; the eldest in her 80s.
To qualify, potential residents are screened through the WRHA’s palliative-care program. They can only be on oral pain medication and have six months or less to live.
One resident lived three years after admission. No one gets asked to leave.
Georgie Brown, 75, has been at Jocelyn House since early February. She has sons, she says, and they offered to take her into their homes.
“I didn’t want to place that burden on them. It’s fine to say you don’t mind and then you’re stuck.”
She says there’s nothing upsetting about knowing she’s at the end of her life.
“I’ve just accepted it,” she says with a smile. “If it’s my turn to go, it’s my turn to go.”
With that, she grasps her walker and heads into the house for lunch. She pauses at the nursing station and offers quiet words of comfort to the family whose mother just died. In a way, she’s family too.
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