Man’s story of lone­li­ness spurs com­pas­sion­ate calls to ac­tion

Winnipeg Free Press - - NEWS - GORDON SIN­CLAIR JR. gordon.sin­clair@freep­

DY­ING man’s ex­pres­sion of lone­li­ness and his call to ac­tion for oth­ers like him ap­pear to have al­ready had an im­pact be­yond his own story. Satur­day’s col­umn about Chep­pudira Gopalkr­ishna, the ter­mi­nally ill 87-year-old for­mer bi­ol­ogy and chem­istry teacher, in­spired sev­eral read­ers to re­spond, in­clud­ing one who an­swered a ques­tion I raised about how we can help. Pauline John­son pointed my way and yours to a reg­is­tered char­i­ta­ble or­ga­ni­za­tion called Pal­lia­tive Man­i­toba and a link to their web­site.

“If you are be­com­ing in­ter­ested in spend­ing time with those near­ing the end of their lives, you may want to con­sider tak­ing this course,” she wrote. “It is a won­der­ful, pro­found ex­pe­ri­ence.”

The “com­pas­sion­ate care course” is of­fered over eight weeks, on Wed­nes­day evenings, in the spring and fall.

“It orig­i­nated solely as a train­ing course for Pal­lia­tive Care Man­i­toba vol­un­teers,” the web­site says, “but in 1990 be­gan be­ing used as a train­ing ve­hi­cle by other or­ga­ni­za­tions.

“It is also open to the gen­eral pop­u­la­tion as a self­in­ter­est course when space is avail­able.”

The or­ga­ni­za­tion’s vol­un­teer vis­it­ing ser­vices have been around for 30 years and at the top of its list of stated goals is to “help lessen the feel­ings of lone­li­ness.”

As a vol­un­teer, it’s a four-hour, once-a-week com­pan­ion­ship com­mit­ment to be there to help, by lis­ten­ing to both the per­son and the fam­ily.

It could be in a home, hospice or in pal­lia­tive care units like the ones at Riverview Health Cen­tre or St. Boni­face Hos­pi­tal. But be­ing in­volved can go be­yond just sit­ting be­side some­one. You might be as­sist­ing with shop­ping and run­ning er­rands to give reg­u­lar care­givers a break, or maybe help­ing write cards and record­ing life sto­ries.

That sounds like some­thing I might be able to do. How about you?

John­son added some­thing else to her help­ful lead on Pal­lia­tive Man­i­toba.

“Also, we can al­ways use more vol­un­teers at Jo­ce­lyn House.”

Now you know.

You should also know that those kinds of vol­un­teer ser­vices are also avail­able at Mis­eri­cor­dia Health Cen­tre, where Chep­pudira Gopalkr­ishna cur­rently re­sides, which sug­gests that lone­li­ness doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily mean one is alone; that there aren’t com­pan­ions

Aat the be­side.

Any­way, an­other reader re­sponded to the col­umn with more help­ful in­for­ma­tion.

And not just help­ful for peo­ple.

Jean A. Pater­son wrote that Nov. 5 has been des­ig­nated as a day to reach out to se­niors. I couldn’t find that on any web­site. No mat­ter, it’s a good idea for any day of the year, and with that in mind, Pater­son said there is an or­ga­ni­za­tion in Nova Sco­tia called El­der Dog that sends vol­un­teers to help se­niors who can’t walk their dogs any­more. “The goal is to put to­gether peo­ple who en­joy dog­walk­ing with se­niors un­able to walk their dogs,” Pater­son wrote. “The group also tries to find trust­wor­thy fos­ter homes for pets when a se­nior is tem­po­rar­ily in hos­pi­tal, or if a se­nior has to give up a pet. The pet it­self may be el­derly.”

So I checked with the Win­nipeg Hu­mane So­ci­ety to see if we have an El­der Dog pro­gram here, or any­thing like it.

“It’s a great idea for a pro­gram to ben­e­fit se­niors with pets,” the hu­mane so­ci­ety’s Kyle Jahns re­sponded. “How­ever, we do not have El­der Dog or any sim­i­lar pro­gram avail­able in Man­i­toba.”

That sounds like a project the hu­mane so­ci­ety or some other group should get go­ing on.

Mean­while, there’s some­thing else that I should have men­tioned about an­other Pal­lia­tive Man­i­toba pro­gram: be­reave­ment ser­vices, in­clud­ing for chil­dren whose par­ents have died.

That re­minded me of par­ents who have lost chil­dren, and one set of par­ents and one child in par­tic­u­lar. Ear­lier this month I chanced to run into Lin­den Woods neigh­bour Cindy Smith.

Eight years ago I wrote about Cindy and Doug Smith’s eight-year-old son Bran­don, who had been born with a rare in­her­ited neu­ro­log­i­cal dis­or­der with no known cure. On Nov. 1, 2008, Bran­don died at home, in his mother’s arms.

And then last year, on Nov. 1, Cindy came up with an idea to cel­e­brate Bran­don’s me­mory in a way that went be­yond fam­ily and friends.

“We spread a few ran­dom acts of kind­ness that day.” They bought cof­fee for strangers at Tim Hor­tons and Star­bucks. They also pur­chased a plant from a florist and handed it to a per­son walk­ing her dog on Waver­ley Street.

And this year, on Wed­nes­day, friends of the fam­ily have asked if they can help Cindy, Doug and their now-18-year-old daugh­ter Hay­ley pay it for­ward again. Ex­cept this year, Cindy de­cided to call what they’re do­ing “Bran­don Acts of Kind­ness.”

Sounds like some­thing we could all do that day in Bran­don’s me­mory.

Or on any other day for some­one whose life and spirit you want to cel­e­brate.


The Smith fam­ily will take part in ‘Bran­don Acts of Kind­ness’ in me­mory of Bran­don, seen here in 2009.

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