Conversations on death, dying top of mind through New West Hospice Society event
'A dialogue on death and dying' will run from Nov. 2 to 5
Dr. Naheed Dosani is the founder of PEACH, or Palliative Education and Care for the Homeless. He'll be one of the speakers during New West Hospice Society's multi-day event on death and dying/New West Hospice Society
When Michael Scales was invited to join New West Hospice Society’s board of directors, he jumped at the opportunity.
“My parents had passed away, which had given me the experience and struggle of being with someone as they were dying,” he says. “I was interested in expanding my knowledge of hospice and how it works, while also wanting to give back to my community.
He quickly came to learn that the society plays a unique role in the city—one that differs from a traditional hospice space.
“We have a challenge in New Westminster, being such a small city,” he says. “Because we don’t have a hospice building, we work to provide services and resources to people directly where they live.”
This includes walking grief support groups, help with advance care planning, and a Compassionate City Crew—a group of volunteers that works with individuals at the end of life to help determine their needs, then mobilizes the required supports.
A large part of this work is based on a Compassionate City model, which aims to empower New Westminster and its residents in their own understanding of, and relationship to death, dying, grief, and loss.
“Our hope is to build a city where dying, death, and bereavement are normalized and where strong community bonds enable us to live life right up until, and including death, to our fullest,” says Scales.
This includes opportunities for community members to get together and talk openly and honestly about their experiences.
“We’re so comfortable talking about people being born. So, we say, ‘Let’s see if we can do the same thing for people who are dying.’”
It’s this goal that is the driver behind the society’s upcoming “A Dialogue on Death and Dying,” being held Nov. 2 to 5 at Century House, which is co-partnering on the event.
With support from the city, residents will share poetry, prose, and musical performances centered around death and dying over the course of four nights.
Dr. Naheed Dosani, a palliative care physician and founder of PEACH: Palliative Education and Care for the Homeless, will also provide a special presentation on this work.
“PEACH—in combination with prose, performance, and poetry—really allowed us to keep the alliterative P alive in our event titles,” laughs Scales.
Elliott Slinn, New Westminster’s poet laureate, is excited to be a part of both the dialogue’s poetry and performance nights.
“Death and dying are fundamental parts of our humanity—everyone will experience them personally, impersonally, and professionally,” he says. “I’m looking forward most to the night's conversations. To being open and honest about our fears, while also hopefully creating a sense of peace and calm around them.”
He believes that art, and artistic expression can both help bring communities closer and create new ways of navigating and living with loss.
“Community events like these play a huge role in making it easier to have these conversations. In so many aspects we do life together, but then we isolate death. Dying and loss, losing love, it all creates a wound. But I think even from our wounds we can create something beautiful.”
Scales hopes attendees who might initially gravitate to one event will choose to attend and experience what every night has to offer.
“Our hope is that individuals who would normally go to a talk by Dr. Dosani check out Elliott’s performance, and vice versa. These opportunities are all gateways to new, exciting and important conversations. Which is what New West Hospice and its work is all about.”
These are no-cost, all-ages events, and you can learn more about them at New West Hospice Society’s website.