Volunteer Spotlight: Bridget’s story

Personal Stories | December 3, 2021 | Dying with Dignity Canada

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A photo of Bridget

Dying With Dignity Canada’s longevity and success is due in large part to the many volunteers who work on the local and at the regional level. We have Chapters across the country powered by people passionate about end-of-life choice. 

Throughout the year, we will be highlighting the stories and contributions of DWDC’s volunteers, and what motivates them to give of their time to our organization. This is Bridget’s story.

How long have you volunteered with DWDC? 

Since December 2019, I have completed over 76 witnessing’s, including 45 that were conducted virtually using Zoom.

What motivates you to volunteer with DWDC?  

The short answer is I read On Death and Dying (1969) by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and really never got over it. In the mid-1970`s, I joined a hospital-based ‘visitors to the dying’ group. We did just that. Patients asking for a visit were encouraged to tell their stories and we listened attentively as was our role. However, we had nothing to offer beyond reinforcement of their courage and perseverance. They were no longer in charge of their lives and just had to make the best of it.

MAID has changed all that.

Yes, it is not perfect, but we work with what we have. Our petitioners are grateful and express this to us. No two words are as powerful as a sincere ‘thank you’.

Continuing the homage to Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, a national tour in the mid 1980’s brought her to Vancouver. Speaking to a full house of 1,900 on a sunny Saturday afternoon, she begged us to consider the dying as a distinct population requiring special care. ‘Palliative’ and ‘hospice’ were her terms for this – new words for many. The audience was quiet but showed agreement with heads nodding, some tears. Strangely, the presentation conclusion was followed by several seconds of complete silence before a release of thunderous applause. There were no questions. Everyone had grasped the message. The afternoon was unforgettable.

What do you enjoy most about volunteering? 

Embracing virtual witnessing.

In March 2020, British Columbia mandated virtual witnessing. Implementation was instant. In-person was to be discouraged as it was risky for both parties and remains so to this day.

To this end, myself and a witnessing colleague took on the self-imposed task of making virtual witnessing doable. We focused on both process and content. To understand the process and with input from my tech-y family, we ‘wrangled’ Zoom and extracted just those elements required to make witnessing a seamless experience for those on both sides of the screen. For content, we mined the Ministry of Health website as well as the DWDC Witness and Proxy Guide and Vancouver Coastal Health virtual guidelines and aggregated them to fit the BC document requirements.

The resulting information one-pager provided step by step instructions for document completion, hyperlinks for transmission of same to the correct destination, as well as Zoom meeting and passcode details.

Do you have a lived experience related to end-of-life that you would share with the DWDC community?  

Let us talk of the resourceful Rosa. As a single person requesting MAID and wishing no assistance other than ourselves as required by law, Rosa set up her iPhone on a camera tripod. She then proceeded to manage the viewing of her photo ID followed by the initialling and signing with a practiced confidence which we found quite stunning. Ever generous with her expertise, she took the time to give us the details of her ‘one woman show’. Before departing, we three commented upon how much we were indebted to each other, not a common occurrence for independent witnesses, but so satisfying for both sides, nonetheless.

Can you share a fun fact about yourself?

In normal times, I would volunteer at UBC’s Crane Library where I voice record and so create mp3 files of required course material for the visually impaired. I am on our strata council and manage the landscape portfolio. Then there are the six priceless grandchildren.

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