Hospice Society of North Kootenay Lake

A registered BC Not-for-Profit Society

The Director's Page

Hospice Services in Our Community

by former Director Chelsea Van Koughnett

I love this quote, in part, because I love this entire area of North Kootenay Lake and our wonderful Village of Kaslo. I accidently wandered through here in 1977 and then didn’t stay away for long. It has now been my home for most of the last 40 years.

It’s precious to me to be able to live here in this microcosm of our planet. I believe that when we do very well whatever we do here, living with integrity, and supporting each other, we become an essential part of the larger organism of the entire planet and all its inhabitants.

I have come to see that “dying well” is an important part of a vibrant village, just as important as “living well”. For the past five years I have had the privilege of working for our local hospice society. This work has served me well, and has become one of my greatest life experiences. I have learned my most significant and heart-opening lessons from the people who, in a most tender and vulnerable time in their lives, allow our hospice to serve them.

In some ways our hospice society is an invisible part of our community. For the most part, our volunteers, including our board of directors, work quietly behind the scenes. All of our services are offered free of charge. And all of our services are offered with a commitment to respecting personal confidentially, so we don’t talk much about our work in public.

Our staff and volunteers offer support to those dealing with life-threatening illness or grief. We can help people in their own homes and in residential care and the palliative care room in our health care centre. In our public education sessions, with conversations, films, and workshops, we focus on information related to advance health care planning, both legal and medical. Our most recent workshop was called “Write Your Own Obituary”.

These may sound like events to be avoided. Our North American culture tends to lead us away from the subject of death, even though, when we are born, death is the only thing we are guaranteed to experience. In contrast, some cultures openly recognize this natural movement towards death, and dedicate their lives to being well-prepared for death at whatever moment it may come. Perhaps it is this latter way that can lead us closer to an experience of both dying well and living well.

One of my teachers, Frank Ostaseski, a co-founder of the Zen Hospice of San Francisco, has said, “Death is not waiting for us at the end of a long road. Death is always with us, in the marrow of every passing moment. She is the secret teacher hiding in plain sight. She helps us to discover what matters most.”

What does matter most? We might all answer that slightly differently or … perhaps not. Our friends and family, sharing love and laughter, time in nature, a sense of joy. Being aware and accepting of the inevitability and unknown time of our death can make each day, each moment, much more precious.

What is “dying well” and how can we do dying better? We can learn together, person by person, death by death, with open conversations about one of the most difficult things to talk about. We are each a part of this village, this community. For our own reasons we have each chosen to live here. Some of us will die here. Personally, I would like my dying here to be one of the best parts of all of my living here. I wonder if some of you might feel the same.

“Dying well takes a village. If it’s done very well, it also makes one.”

Perhaps this will stir up some thoughts and feelings and even open up some conversations with your friends and family. If you’d like to talk about this further, or would like more information about our local hospice, you are welcome to contact us at:

Chelsea Van Koughnett, Executive Director

250-353-2299

hospice@kaslo.org

Office Location:

Kemball Memorial Building
#201 - 312 4th Street,
Kaslo, B.C.

Postal Address

Hospice Society of North Kootenay Lake
Box 801
Kaslo, B.C. Canada
V0G 1M0