Not too long ago I had a wonderful experience that reminded me of how important nature is to me and many others. I was on my regular walk in the middle of the city, enjoying the songs and flights of finches and swallows in the unusually peaceful confines of a nature trail by the Langley airport. It’s a surprising oasis, being as it lies between two busy roads, the Fraser Hwy. and 56th Avenue; but it offers me a chance to get some exercise and thinking time. As I sauntered along the trail, I glanced up to my right to a small rise above the track and saw two beautiful deer standing there watching me; both young – one doe and one buck. I continued to walk slowly along the trail until they were within 25 to 30 feet of me; then I stood perfectly still. For at least 30 seconds, I felt them consider me; communing with me through large luminous eyes. I was awestruck.

When they turned and walked calmly away, I knew somehow they had accepted me. I had been given a gift; one that filled me with an emotion not unlike euphoria. It was a moment of spiritual epiphany – a reconnection with my God. That feeling of certainty that I am a part of the circle of life fills me with immense gratitude to this day. I know I am connected to each and every living thing and that each of our lives, no matter how large or small, has meaning.

As a hospice volunteer, I listen to the stories of dying patients and frequently hear expressions of delight in nature of various kinds, whether pets, flowers, birds or wildlife. The fond memories they recall are often centered on family camping trips, beachcombing, picnics and outings. Somehow nature has a way of bringing out the best in humanity and giving us a true sense of our unique place in the world. We feel freer when we are outside on a summer morning, or playing with our pets, or sitting quietly in our gardens. It is natural for us to seek renewal in the great outdoors and we here in Canada are more fortunate than most, with an abundance of nature at our doorstep.

For the ill and dying, it is essential for us to bring some part of the natural universe to the bedside. Whether it is just potted flowers, or visiting pets, access to nature is an extremely valuable addition to all hospice facilities and palliative care wards. Patients who can view gardens, trees and birds from their windows frequently have less pain and anxiety and are more open to reflection. When my time comes, I know I will need communion with nature to assist me with the contemplation of my own life and death.

Wendy Francis

Palliative/Hospice Residence Volunteer