I had lived in my own home for the last 20 years of my life and so didn’t want to move out until I absolutely had to. I’ve always been very independent and didn’t want to have to be taken care of in some retirement home, where I would be surrounded by a lot of old people who looked out the window all day without anything to say.
After a few stays at the hospital, returning home each time, it became apparent to me that I needed something more. I was offered a place in Jocelyn House and after talking it over with my family, went for a tour. After a few days to digest what I had seen and the people that I had met, I decided that . . . yes, I would try it!
A week later, I joined the family that other’s call Jocelyn House.
I met the other residents and found that everyone was distinct, separate and fascinating. I started to look forward to lunch and to dinner, where often we had laughter and bright conversation leading to sitting together after eating just to talk more.
I didn’t like the bread that was served. They bought my favorite bread for me. If you have a problem, someone will help you solve it. The Nursing staff is wonderful, the Doctor visits once a week, the staff become extended family.
Let me tell you about the volunteers! There are volunteers to fix things for us, to clean things for us, to talk to us, to cook for us, musicians who play music for us and the list goes on. I am overwhelmed by these people who only want to give something back. I look forward to meals because I’ve always enjoyed good food, served with love. We have volunteer ‘chef’s’ who come in to serve special meals they have planned for days before. These volunteer cooks are people like you and I who just love preparing good food and sharing good times. All these volunteers help to create the wonderful atmosphere in Jocelyn House, which you can feel as soon as you walk in.
We thank the volunteers for their wonderful kindness through two events: a ‘Thanksgiving’ weekend that brought 40 people in last year to BBQ, laugh, tell stories and interact with the people that have become their friends and; another through a special Christmas Eve night.
I miss the residents that I came to know and love who have passed. I hope that sharing each other’s thoughts in a loving atmosphere gave them additional solace.
Last month, a man was offered a chance to come to Jocelyn House and came to tour it with some family members. He ended up turning down the chance to join our special family. I thought with a wry smile, when I heard he wasn’t coming, that he will never know what he gave up.
So that was the reason I asked if I could add my story to the Jocelyn House Website. I wanted other people who are at the last stage of life to know that this is a place they can find a second family who offer love, friendship and respect for everybody coming through the door.
Miracles happen at Jocelyn House
“Brian Thomas is my name, but anybody that knows me well calls me Beano.” Brian was born in Winnipeg and moved to the small community of Beaconia when he was 6 years old. Growing up in Beaconia he was surrounded by nature and a loving family including his mother, step-father and 3 sisters. He was taught the important values of love, sharing, forgiveness, and kindness.
Like many teenagers, Brian was eager to break away from his family and make his mark in the world. Leaving home to explore Canada at just 15 he started on a journey with many twists and turns. Missteps happened along his path, decisions were made that filled his life, and those around him, with both joy and pain. The latest turn in this life’s tale was Brian’s return to Manitoba after being diagnosed with terminal cancer. Brian moved to Jocelyn House Hospice in April 2012. It was the last step in his journey home to Manitoba, a step taken from pain which ultimately helped bring peace.
A born-again Christian and a status Indian, Brian started looking in earnest for spirituality in his 30’s. Through his involvement in Sweat Lodges, Fasts, Smudging and Sacred Pipe ceremonies Brian found a deeper connection to his Aboriginal heritage and his artistic talent. Working with Acrylics, he focused on Transformational art using bears, buffalo, coyotes and eagles in his projects. He also expressed himself through his writings with published poetry, short stories, and a play “House of Tears”. At 46, Brian graduated from Grade 12. “Not a GED, I went back to school!” he says proudly. He followed that with 3 years in the Aboriginal Studies Program at the Institute for Indigenous Government in B.C. Brian’s work life may have been construction, but his passions were his art and Aboriginal Politics.
Brian was first diagnosed with stomach cancer in 2002 while still living in Vancouver. Thanks to the team at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver, Brian initially beat the cancer only to have it reappear in 2010. Although estranged from his family at that time Brian wanted to be buried with his parents in Manitoba. His decision to come home had complications but, ‘everyone was on the same page and we were able to make it happen.’ There was urgency around his return and first he was placed in St. Boniface Palliative care for 3 months. While at St. Boniface, he learned about Jocelyn House Hospice. The setting was described to him as quiet and peaceful and he immediately felt that it would be a positive option for him.
“I feel miracles have happened. Jocelyn House Hospice is a miracle for me.”
Now Brian has a place where he can reflect on his life. Jocelyn House Hospice is a place ‘where you take things one day at a time’, where Brian feels safe and has a sense of hope. This house is now his home. He takes strength from the other residents, and shares his strength with them. Since arriving at Jocelyn House Hospice in April, Brian feels stronger. One of the benefits of Jocelyn House is there are no real restrictions on your diet. The health care staff works with residents to provide them with their favorite meals; for Brian that means he is taking the herbs and natural foods he wants to help maintain his health. His diet and the environment of the house help sustain him. Brian is still mobile and enjoys helping out his housemates by picking up items for them while on his walks in the neighbourhood. Mostly you will find Brian in the yard. Brian planted a garden and enjoys tending it while he takes in the beautiful surroundings that Jocelyn House offers. The quiet babbling of the Seine River behind the house, the shade of the mature Maple and Oak trees lovingly trimmed by the volunteers, the deer peeking around the corner, and most of all the peace of being outdoors, these are the true benefits of Jocelyn House for Brian.
Brian started his life surrounded by nature and with a loving family around him, and soon will end it in the same way. Since coming to Jocelyn House, Brian has reconnected with his family. His 3 daughters, Anna, Tanya and Lana, along with his ex-wife and sisters had a special visit to his home town where holding hands they formed a circle around his parents graves and said a prayer.
“I am grateful to Jocelyn House Hospice. The staff here are genuine, truly care about you. They show that if people are working together things can get done. They looked at me for who I am, a human being, and accepted me. They are very true to the philosophy of the house.”
When we enter this world, we are surrounded by love, comfort, and care.
Don’t we deserve the same when we leave? Anonymous
Daniel’s Story – March 2011 –
Incredibly, Daniel’s journey from cancer diagnosis to his arrival at Jocelyn House Hospice for the terminally ill spanned a very short seven months. But even though Daniel’s life had taken such a dramatic turn in such a short amount of time, he was grateful for what he’s been given in Jocelyn House.
“I came down the driveway and said ‘I’ll take it’,” said Daniel, who simply couldn’t say enough good things about his new home. “This is paradise for me. This is my home and the people here are like family to me.”
Daniel spent the early part of his career as a toolmaker, or as Daniel prefers, a “jig and die” man. That eventually led Daniel to Canada Packers where he worked as what he describes as a “full-time millwright and part-time human resources man,” responsible for the training and management of over fifty immigrant workers.
It was during his tenure at Canada Packers where Daniel met his wife of 48 years, Beatrice. They met at a family wedding and were married themselves shortly after, although they unfortunately don’t get to see much of each other theses days. Beatrice suffers from dementia and lives in a personal care home, which makes visits between the two very hard to arrange, given Daniel’s condition.
It doesn’t seem very long ago that Daniel was doing just fine, feeding bird in his yard, tending his large vegetable garden and many flower beds and golfing with his buddies that now visit him at Jocelyn House Hospice. But seven months ago he was diagnosed with cancer – cancer which has now spread to many areas throughout his body from which he’s told he will not recover.
This is what has brought Daniel to Jocelyn House Hospice – to live out his remaining days in the most dignified, active and life-filled way as possible.
“This suits all my criteria” said Daniel. “The people are great and I love the trees and all the birds.
Daniel loved his new home at Jocelyn House and the people whose job it is to add as much life as possible to his final days. In fact, Daniel felt his relationship with Jocelyn House Hospice was quite reciprocal.
“I’m just really content – I’m in seventh heaven right now,” Daniel said. “They give me life and I like to think that I help bring life to this place too.”
Daniel wasn’t willing to give up, even when all of his doctors diagnosed his cancer as terminal, he dreamed about getting out on the course again with his buddies to play another round of golf and he had plans to dance at his grandson’s wedding – even though he didn’t even have a girlfriend yet.
But despite his determination to prove the doctors wrong, Daniel recently lost his battle with cancer, but his incredible spirit and love for life lives on in all of us.
Each dollar you give goes directly to the care and support for people living out their final days at Jocelyn House Hospice – wonderful people like Daniel!!!!
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