Palliative Care Coming To Waterdown Library on Thursday February 2nd

The next best thing after publishing a book is having people who admit to reading it! I’m fortunate that librarians at Hamilton Public Library have invited me to talk with their readers. Tomorrow,  Thursday February 3rd I will be speaking about the experience of writing a novel that addresses the joys and frustrations of palliative care.

Here’s how it’s billed:

Autumn’s Grace – Reflections on Writing a Family’s Journey Through Palliative Care.

Autumn's Grace Cover

Author and Registered Nurse, Bonnie Lendrum, could have chosen a lighter topic than palliative care for her first novel, but she didn’t. Instead, she chose to write about something that worried her…how we as a society manage end-of-life care. Lendrum will combine readings from Autumns’ Grace with observations on family dynamics, health care policy and practices. Like the novel, the talk will contain hearty doses of courage, humour and hope.

Consider this note to be an invitation that you may extend to friends and family to come to the  Hamilton Public Library, Waterdown Branch, 163 Dundas St. East, Waterdown, for 7:00 p.m. Thursday , February 2, 2017. Call the library to register (905-689-6269  x1021), or just plan to show up.

Bonnie Lendrum is the author of Autumn’s Grace, the story of how one family manages the experience of palliative care with hope and humor despite sibling conflicts, generational pulls and career demands.

Autumn’s Grace – at Audreys Books on June 5th

audresys-584Back in the 1950’s one of my Canadian heroes, Mel Hurtig,  was an Indie bookstore owner and publisher. In his Edmonton stores, authors could stage plays, perform readings and drink coffee with patrons. How cool was that?

This lucky author will be reading at one of these locations (10702 Jasper Avenue) on Sunday June 5th at 2:00. The bookstore is now named Audreys Books Ltd. It’s owned by two invincible spirits, Steve and Sharon Budnarchuk, who have made this author from the east feel quite welcome in the west.

Please tell friends and family to drop by on Sunday afternoon to say “Hello!” and to support these Indie Booksellers.

 

 

Reflections on Writing a Family’s Journey Through Palliative Care – An Afternoon Discussion at Westdale Public Library

Tuesday February 16, 2016 at the Hamilton Public Library, Westdale Branch – 2:00 -3:00 p.m.

Author and nurse, Bonnie Lendrum, could have chosen a lighter topic than palliative care for her first novel, but she didn’t. Instead, she chose to write about something that worried her…how we as a society manage end-of-life care. Lendrum will combine readings from Autumns’ Grace with observations on family dynamics, health care policy and practices. Like the novel, the talk will contain hearty doses of courage, humour and hope.

Please feel free to share this post with friends, family and neighbours.

Aging and Dying As a Crescendo at the End of Life

My godson (a thoughtful, kind and generous young man) has just shared a TED Talk with me. It’s about palliative care and our need to re-think and re-design our approaches to dying …. the systems as well as the bricks and mortar. We need a design that embodies caring, compassion, dignity, and beneficence…a design that celebrates life as we prepare for death.

Have a listen to this 19 minute clip….

The Show Must Go On – Concussed Author Reads at the Lit Live Reading Series

 

 

photo (6)

John Lennon’s observation that “Life is what happens to you when you are busy making other plans,” was an apt mantra for me during the last 4 weeks. Nobody plans a concussion, but life happens. The holiday schedule had included conducting a family Christmas, hosting a post-Christmas gathering of neighbors at the cottage, celebrating a three day family New Year’s event, and then finishing off with a reading on January 4th at the Hamilton Lit Live Reading Series. Nothing went quite as planned.

My amazing husband and sons stepped in to to make Christmas happen; our sons hosted the neighbors up north on the 27th; and my wonderful family (husband, sons, mother, sister, nieces, and brother) made New Year’s an example of team effort.

With more than a little trepidation, I did manage to read at the Lit Live event in Hamilton. What you will see in the attached photo are the very big, and very red Vuarnet sunglasses (circa 1985). They have been perched on my nose for the past 4 weeks even as I lay in a dark bedroom. It’s not possible to overstate the sensitivity to light that one experiences with a concussion.

The Lit Live Committee has recorded the last two months of readings. Click  Lit Live Reading Series – Sunday January 4th, 2015 for the audio. Do listen to the clips from the poets. Their readings ranged from quirky and funny, to cerebral and spiritual. One of the delights of this series is the exposure to poetry.

What you will hear when you get to my clip is a rather strained voice. I was anxious for the better part of the day about the lighting, and about my ability to stand for 15 minutes. If I had thought about it, I would also have fretted about multi-tasking: holding a binder, reading words, and turning the pages. So… in the clip you will hear me fumbling at the end of the first page as I try to speak, read, hold the notes and turn the page. Fortunately my brain found an ‘e’ word (extemporaneous) before it found the ‘f’ word.

I dedicated the reading to the memory of Eric McGuiness, the Hamilton journalist who reported on environmental issues for the Hamilton Spectator. Eric provided an informed external voice to our community’s fight in north Flamborough. As we battled a quarry, he was fighting cancer. This past October he wrote:

I’m resigned to the fact that it [cancer] will kill me. What worries me most is how I will die.

If I wind up in a hospice rather than a hospital and if the symptoms can be controlled, perhaps a dignified, quick and peaceful death is possible. Or I could be one of the people who die slowly and painfully: unable to care for myself, pleading for an end to my suffering. Some people who are terminally ill see no choice but violent forms of death that are horrific to contemplate.

Eric died in Switzerland this past month where he could be assured of dying “as easily and humanely as a beloved family pet.”

I started writing Autumn’s Grace in the early 2000’s because I was profoundly disturbed by the state of palliative care in Canada. Fifteen years later, not much has happened to ease my worry. We talk about the subject, but I have yet to see substantive systemic change. Until end of life care is considered as important a public health issue as preparation and support for pregnancy and child birth, people will be faced with challenging choices at end of life. 

Photo credit: Gary Barwin

 

 

You’re all grown-up when…. it’s all up to you

 Centre piece by Chate- Anderson Designs

Remember being sixteen, getting your driver’s licence and thinking you were all grown- up? The card in your wallet brought freedom, as long as the gas tank was full when you returned the car to your parents’ garage.

That feeling of being grown-up may have lasted until you lost your virginity. In fifteen minutes you had been introduced to the mysteries of adulthood, but were left wondering, “Is that all there is? Could there be more to being an adult?”

And yes, there was more.

You cast your first ballot at the age of twenty-one and were finally taking part in the affairs of the country. This had to be what being grown-up was about.

But no. There was still more.

Like the time you received your first paycheque and saw deductions to the Canada Pension Plan. Here you were, just barely out of your teens and you were contributing to your security in old age – a very grown-up thing to do.

After a time you realized that ‘grown-up’ was an illusion. You continued to have these moments of milestone awareness when you married, when you bought your first house, and then again when you had your first child.

However, somewhere between that first child and that same child’s graduation from post-secondary school, a parent died. And that was when it hit you.

“Now, I’m grown-up. I am one of the eldest in my family. I’m it.”

And if, like me, you regressed while your parent was ill, wanting to be the child who did not have to deal with adult situations, it was a wake-up call. Grown-ups drive, vote, give birth, pay taxes, buy a house, pay down the mortgage, raise children and, grown-ups help their parents exit this world.

No one told me as I grew up that I would be helping a parent through an illness. That I would be sitting with that parent as the last breath was drawn. Or that I would be comforting the surviving parent. No one told me, or showed me, and so I was not prepared. And I was a registered nurse. If I wasn’t ready, then who was?

It’s a familiar situation. A parent becomes ill; the prognosis is grim. And squeezed into those free moments amongst the competing demands of children, careers, marriage, and caregiving they/we need to learn more than we ever wanted to know about dying.

But what if we normalized dying and death just as we have done pregnancy and childbirth?

If we considered dying to be part of life, palliative care would be introduced to high school health education classes.  Lessons about learning how to be present to, and caring for someone who is dying would co-exist with other content, like sex-education. The classes could have immediate benefit for some students. The minimal value of being present during the end stages of an illness is that it provides our children with a practice opportunity — long before they assume the mantle of family elder. At best, the experience of being present with several generations creates an opportunity for a family discussion about remembering, grieving, and preparing for end-of-life— while living each day to the fullest.

However, inclusion in high school curricula requires societal pre-cursors such as:

  • Advance Directives for End of Life Care that are discussed, written down, filed, and communicated with the family physician. (About 30% of Canadians have had the discussion — 16% have done something as a result.)
  • Palliative care content that is included in the curriculum of all medical and nursing schools. (There is still work to be done.)
  • Palliative care services that are well-funded and integrated into the health care system. (We’re not there yet.)

If we hope to fare better than our parents may have in their last weeks, days and moments, there is much work to be done. It’s up to us, because we are now the grown-ups.

This note was written to honour Stephanie Chate-Anderson, who with her mother and her brother managed her father’s last weeks, days, hours, and minutes, with grace, courage and love.

The arrangement in the photo was done by Stephanie Chate-Anderson for the launch of Autumn’s Grace.