Upon the table a small light was on and gently flickering as I entered the building. I approached the table to read the writing upon the card in front of the light. As I came closer I could see a young woman standing in the hall, her body pressed against the rail. She was trembling, her hands pressed to her mouth, with tears falling upon her cheeks. I moved towards her, my purse still over my shoulder, and extended my arms to her. We both took a step towards each other and my arms encircled her. No words were spoken as she put her head upon my shoulder and I held her close. Time passed, her tears subsided and she stood back. She was composed as she spoke only two words, “thank you”.

So what building is this? What do the light and the card represent? Why was this young woman crying?

I have entered a Hospice Residence. In direct line with the outside door is a table where the small light is encased within a stained glass stand. This light is turned on for twenty-four hours to honour the life and acknowledge the passing of a resident. A white card with the name of the deceased sits propped upon a small wooden holder. Also on the table are a vase and a book. The vase is always filled with beautifully arranged fresh flowers, courtesy of the Langley Hospice Society. The book, with covers of engraved wood etched with the words “In Loving Memory”, is for family and friends of those who pass through Hospice. The book allows expressions of love, sadness and goodbyes to loved ones and serves as an aid to healing in the grieving process. What is not on the table is the beautiful hand-sewn quilt – a work of love – which covers the family’s loved one as they make their last journey through the halls of the hospice accompanied with respect and last goodbyes.

The young woman is a family member, not of the deceased, but the daughter of one of the residents. She is able to express her needs and show her emotions as she knows that she is in a safe place and that each person here will reach out to her and comfort her.

This is the Langley Hospice Residence, but it could be any hospice, each having its own traditions but all with the same goal. Along with the doctor and the nurses, we the volunteers, strive to accomplish this goal. Our goal is to provide comfort with dignity and respect to the residents. We also provide a compassionate and caring environment for all residents, family and friends. So, together with our goals, we shall continue with our traditions, each by itself small, but together forming a valuable and meaningful part of what Hospice stands for.

Maureen Airey, Hospice Volunteer