Losing three loved ones in three years

Personal Stories | October 27, 2023 | Paula Ferris

Home / Personal Stories / Losing three loved ones in three years
A photo of Paula's parents sitting on the front steps of the house with their beloved dogs.

My experience with medical assistance in dying (MAID) was a steep learning curve that started in the summer of 2019. My beautiful, funny, intelligent best friend passed away at the age of 53 in hospice on August 17, 2019, and my amazingly strong, quirky dad passed at home at the age of 63 on August 30, 2019. It was a summer of cancer that, for both of them, arrived like a storm out of nowhere. My dad had no symptoms when his health journey started, and my beautiful friend had had nagging pain but couldn’t get to the bottom of why until an ER visit. I knew about MAID and ended up being the one to provide both of them with the information; both my dad and friend were terminal, and the pain and progression of the disease was fast and cruel.

I was with my friend the day of her MAID provision along with her husband, 16-year-old son and a few other family members in the sunshine on the rooftop garden of the hospice. It was calm, quiet and so incredibly peaceful at 9:45 a.m. when we all went up with her. She had picked 10:00 a.m. as her time and the doctor who attended was so gentle and kind, but focused. I didn’t know what to expect; I had seen loved ones pass away before from cancer; so much pain, moaning in their fog of painkillers so I wasn’t sure what this would be like. I was so devastated to see my friend leave us, but it was so beautifully tragic; no moaning, no pain. She just closed her eyes and looked as if she was sleeping peacefully. 
When I went home, my dad asked me to tell him everything; he had been approved for MAID but had not chosen his day yet. A few days later he did, and August 30 at 9:45 a.m. the doctor arrived at our home; 10:00 a.m. was the time my dad picked as well. My mom, my two kids, our dogs and I were with him in our sunroom; we had moved the hospital bed in there so he would have sunshine and there would be space when people visited. We played his favourite record and the doctor proceeded with us all laying a hand on him. He slipped away very quickly, again in such a calm, peaceful way. It was a different MAID provider from the one who attended to my friend, but she was also incredible; she even placed a bandage on my dad’s hand when she removed the IV. 
Having gone through two experiences within 13 days of each other was surreal but there was a reason – my creative, generous, loving mom would also request MAID in 2022. Her illness was not cancer, it was Alzheimer’s disease. There is so much I could write about her journey, but the most important thing is that once again, when her day arrived, October 3, 2022, at 10:00 a.m. (and her wedding anniversary), she was not afraid, there was no pain or fear because the doctor and nurse were more than I could have ever asked for. She was in our home, comfortable in her bed with just her dog and me. My kids were just outside her patio door to her room playing her wedding song. 
I will never fully understand why I had to go through losing three of my favourite people in such a short amount of time but I do know that my experiences have allowed me to tell other people about how MAID works and I have helped a few friends navigate the process when a loved one was diagnosed with an incurable illness. I also know that I am eternally grateful that MAID was an option for my friend, dad and mom; it gave them control and dignity which their illnesses took away from them. 

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