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Dorothy Ley Hospice

Jim's Story

By client support volunteer Tom Graungaard                                                                                      Spring 2002

Jim was in the final stages of advanced lung cancer when I met him. He was 33 years old and he'd never smoked a cigarette. He and his wife Nora had received his diagnosis three months into their marriage.

Initially, I met them in their home where Jim was taking a break home from the Toronto Grace Hospital for a few days. He was extremely weak physically, but completely present in mind. Our meeting had a profound effect on me and we had an instant connection.

I saw Jim in his home a couple more times and taught him how to play cribbage. I discovered that Jim was happiest when he was learning. He was a keen student and was soon winning more games than he was losing. When I visited Jim in the hospital, we continued to play crib as long as he was able. In our time before and after playing cards, we talked.

Sometimes it was small talk, but often we talked about what was happening to them. I was humbled by Jim's candour. He knew he was dying.  He was preparing for it (Jim made lists for Nora of the responsibilities he was relinquishing to her), and yet he maintained a welcome, open attitude to me.

Jim told me how he and Nora had gone to select their plots at the cemetery and planned his funeral together. Jim even planned for his taxes after he was gone by making sure that Nora had all of the necessary information. Nora supported Jim with her undivided attention through this incredibly trying time. I became very close to both of them. To be honest, I was in awe of them.

We celebrated Jim's 34th birthday on December 22 at the Grace Hospital with friends and family. During the entire time I spent with Jim and Nora, sitting with them or feeding Jim when Nora was away for her intermittent breaks (she slept in a cot beside him nearly every night), Jim always kept his sense of humour. We laughed more than I ever thought possible.

On January 9 I had the honour of having my hand on Jim's arm (Nora holding his other hand), when he peacefully passed away. His parents and his brother Gordon were also there. The love in the room was palpable. It was a beautiful life-changing experience


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