This Cups of Light series of columns took an unexpected turn the other day. Marie-Linda Plante, a personal caregiver residing in Cochrane, wrote me a couple of emails about her Cups of Light time of grieving outside Sharon Convey’s window at Bethany Care Centre Cochrane. Sharon passed away on May 2 at the age of 73 (obituary in last week’s Eagle). I’ll pick up Marie-Linda’s story on April 29.
“I am not allowed to go inside Bethany because of COVID-19, but I am helping from the other side of the window. It is so weird to be so helpless at watching a loved one dying through a window,” Marie-Linda said.
“I spent 10 hours today, mostly standing, by her window giving support to her husband Tony, grieving through a window of hope for Peace to come! We are lucky that Bethany Cochrane is all on one level!”
Sharon had dementia for the past four years and cancer for the past year. She had also fallen and broken a hip in December. “With her illness, her speech was deteriorating rapidly, as was balance, vision, escalating behaviours; the ability to do things for herself was nil, even swallowing her food.”
Then Sharon became palliative, Marie-Linda said – “no more getting out of bed, no more food and no more drink, no more mumbling, no more of anything.” During this time her husband, wearing a mask, was the only one, other than staff, allowed inside at her bedside, door closed.
“I was window-grieving and assisting for four full days. I was able to have the main gate unlocked (locked for dementia residents’ protection) so I could support them the best I could through her bedroom window, for her to know that she wasn't alone in this ordeal. The window was slightly open, so she could hear me through the screen. All I wanted to do was to hug her the whole time to reassure her that all would be okay.”
At one point Sharon’s nephew, Joel, and his wife joined Marie-Linda in window-grieving. “He’d often come to visit Sharon before, as they were very close; she was like a mother to him. When he was having a hard time facing her and the window, he found some little branches on the ground and made them into a cross and put it by her window. It was so touching!”
On Marie-Linda and Tony’s last window visit together with Sharon two days before she became palliative, something happened that Marie-Linda will long remember.
“The Bethany staff sat her in her wheelchair and brought her to the living room window, where we could see her better. Her husband was on the phone outside facing her with one staff inside beside her with her phone, so he could talk to her and she could listen. We were looking at her, but with her bad vision she couldn't see us. She didn't say a word, just listened, and at the end, before he hung up, she clearly said: ‘I LOVE YOU!’ It was the most poignant moment! Not even knowing it was going to be her last words to him.”
I asked Marie-Linda how aware Sharon was of her visits.
“I know she was aware that I was there because of her facial expression; her face changed when I talked to her. She recognized my voice. It warmed my heart. At times she would even move her head a little. And I know the hearing is the last thing to go, so it is so important to keep talking until their last breath.”
© 2020 Warren Harbeck