It’s early evening and the fading sunlight is softly filling the front room of the Rotary Hospice Centre. Even the stained glass accents radiate warmth inside the heritage-style home on Hodgins Avenue.
Linda Carey lies silently on a plinth set up near the windows; the light falls gently on her face. So too, do the hands of Marjorie Perzow.
Linda breathes in deeply, exhales. Marjorie cups her hands around her chin, all her energy focused on the woman lying before her. As she stands solid and strong at Linda’s head, Tarja Oostendarp artfully sweeps her hands along the contours of Linda’s body, several inches above her. Every now and then, Tarja shakes her hands off as if they were wet.
As the two women work, silently and wholly focused on their own hands and Linda’s body, Linda begins to relax. They sweep over her, hold gently onto her head, her hips, her feet. And for this half hour, Linda’s in the moment.
She’s present, and she’s healing. Everything else falls away.
It’s been a long time since Linda first experienced this type of relaxation therapy, through the Chilliwack Hospice Society. When she first heard about Hospice, she wasn’t even sure she would call them. It was August 2014, and her husband, Alan had been diagnosed with terminal cancer. He had been through melanoma before but this time it was his brain and some internal organs. When the subsequent chemotherapy lead to a massive heart attack, Alan was hospitalized. It was there where Linda first learned about the Chilliwack Hospice Society.
They could support them, they could help in so many ways. But it wasn’t until September, about six weeks later, that she found the courage to call.
“I couldn’t even talk, I was crying so much,” she said. Still, in what seemed like only moments, the palliative care coordinator was at the Carey’s doorstep.
“And that’s how it started,” Linda recalls. “That’s how we started with healing touch.”
Alan wasn’t too sure when he heard about healing touch — the whole idea seemed a bit flaky to him. But Linda convinced him to give it a try, and he agreed. It only took that first session for the Careys to realize this was what they needed.
“Every Monday he would get all excited, he was going for healing touch,” Linda says. “Mondays we would come here. They would just lay their hands on you and for that half hour, it’s their energy that heals you.”
Many of those Mondays, Linda would lie on the table and tears would flow. She could forget for just that moment all the prescriptions, the lists of medications, the appointments, doctors and ambulance rides. She could forget that the man she was “meant to be with” would be leaving soon.
For that half hour, he was just on the other side of a room divider, receiving his healing touch as well. For Alan it was a chance to let go of his fear of dying.
“Their touch is from the heart and goes through the hands,” Linda explains.
It’s a gift the couple had not expected to receive from Hospice. But Linda soon learned that Hospice has many caring volunteers who can help through the toughest times of life.
“Hospice is not about death, it’s about love,” she says. “I am so grateful for what they’ve given to us.”
Alan passed away on April 22, 2015. Just hours before, Marjorie had arrived at the Hospice at Cascade and gave him her healing touch. Everyone in the room — Alan, Marjorie, Linda — knew it would be his last treatment.
The memory of that day, so close to the anniversary, makes Linda well up a little bit. It has been almost a year since she’s had a treatment from Marjorie. But she’s still healing, still raw with emotion, and this day’s session soothes her. She is sharing her story to let others know that the Chilliwack Hospice Society can help at your darkest times.
“Your whole world is destroyed, and being able to come here gave me the strength to take care of him. We called them our angels,” she says.
“It took me a month and a half to make the call,” Linda says.
The Chilliwack Hospice Society has been offering these relaxation treatments for the last 10 year. They began with a team of six, led by Marjorie, and now they have 14. The service is offered to the residents of Cascade Hospice and their family members on a weekly basis, and even more frequently if requested.
Although many come for treatments due to health-related reasons or injuries, others come as these treatments are known to bring about an enhanced sense of well-being. Volunteers will go to people’s homes when needed, to the hospital, and to Cascade Hospice.
“We help people live the best quality they can until they have to die. To help them have a good day,” says Marjorie, who is also a retired nurse. “We’ve seen some remarkable things here.”
To learn more about the Chilliwack Hospice Society and what it can offer palliative patients and their families, phone 604-795-4660.