For the desperately ill Canadians who call him, Nino Sekopet's voice over the telephone provides comfort, validation, and choice— a salve for people looking to explore their end-of-life options.
In its May 2, 2016 issue, Maclean’s magazine profiled the personal support program manager with End of Life Planning Canada, a new independent charity that grew out of Dying With Dignity Canada. In the piece by Shannon Proudfoot, Sekopet talked about the questions he most often faces in his line of work, the stories that have profoundly impacted him, and what makes him so effective at such a psychologically and philosophically taxing job. Throughout the piece, Proudfoot clearly captures Sekopet’s thoughtful compassion and genuine care for both his job and the strangers he talks to on the phone.
“Nobody really recognizes that anybody who is dying is going through trauma,” Sekopet told Maclean’s. “Nobody is addressing that, and nobody is holding that with them, nobody is metabolizing that for them.”
In his role, Sekopet is able to acknowledge the raw, vulnerable stage his callers are in (the article highlights that Sekopet gets an average of 15 new inquiries from suffering Canadians a week). Instead of offering idealistic words of encouragement or passing judgment, Sekopet sits with his callers, inviting them to talk about something widely considered taboo and uncomfortable: their suffering and subsequent desire to end their own lives.
As he counsels people about their end-of-life options and meets them in the midst of their pain, Sekopet naturally forms “intimate relationships with people he will never meet, helping to shepherd virtual strangers through the most profound of life transitions.” The article highlights specific cases where people—flesh and blood and more than just a voice on the telephone—have remembered Sekopet even at the very end, from a telephone call farewell (“I guess this is ’bye, Nino”) to letters of thanks from loved ones.
Those moments, Sekopet said, will never leave him, as he continues to thrive and grow in a role that had his predecessors burning out and running for the hills.
“I think I have the privilege, with the help of these people, to stumble on some deep wisdom of life,” he said. “I think I am becoming a much better human being than I would without that job.”