Dear Friends of CCBI,

CCBI’s annual lecture took place on December 3, 2009. This year it took the form of a panel of three experts in palliative care: Dr. Marisa Zorzitto, geriatrician at St. Michael’s Hospital; Dr. Chris Newman, pediatrician and palliative care specialist at Sick Kids; Rowena Thirlwell, RN, palliative care nurse at Parrem House, a hospice for the homeless and marginalized.

The three discussed different aspects of palliative care, demonstrating different experiences across the spectrum, but all with the same aim: to help people die well, and also to help their families during this time, and, in many cases, afterwards. They witnessed in a powerful way to the importance of compassion, solidarity and sensitivity in the presence of difficult circumstances. It is clear that in their work they offer counseling, reassurance, moral support and spiritual support, the latter perhaps sometimes indirectly, but still beneficial and absolutely necessary for those whom they tend. I was impressed by their medical knowledge and expertise, but also by their sheer goodness, tolerance and compassionate altruism.

It seemed to many present that we were listening to people who really know about facing death, and who are outstanding in their service to others, helping them die with true dignity and respect. To me these three women embody Pope John Paul’s admonition to “live life to the end”, a positive approach to the reality of death while embracing its mystery.

We look forward to having the taping of their presentation on our website as soon as possible, since we know that many of you will want to watch this.

Also, please look at the important message from the Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association on our home page. They ask – “let’s talk about hospice palliative care instead of euthanasia!” To which we respond prayerfully, AMEN! Let’s also continue to TALK to those who have some power in our communities – MPs, physicians, nurses, community health personnel, media, and anyone else we can think of. It really is within our power to do that part of the work, and so much depends on it. We don’t all need to speak about euthanasia and physician assisted suicide as such. We can also praise our local hospice or palliative care hospital ward, and acknowledge publicly those who work or volunteer there. I am struck by the number of people in parishes who tell me that they volunteer in hospice or hospital. Their witness is incredibly important. We just need to make it more visible, so that others in society become aware of the kind of care that is possible.

During this season of Advent, as we await our Saviour’s birth, we have the opportunity to reflect on the gift of all life, from its beginning to its natural end.

Wishing you life to the full!