This was a brief interview done with Dr. Gloria Horsley on April 24, 2014 at the 36th Annual Conference of the Association for Death Education and Counseling (ADEC) from April 23-26 in Baltimore, MD. The speaker is Rev. Ian Smith.
I am an ordained minister of the United Church of Canada and working as a congregational pastor in suburban Montréal, Québec, Canada. I am also the volunteer Spiritual Care Coordinator for the West Island Palliative Care Residence in Kirkland, Québec, since October 2003.
I became very interested in the field of death and dying in 1982 when a part of my student ministry internship was as a member of the pastoral care team of Canada’s first palliative care facility, founded by Dr. Balfour Mount and, at that time, located in the Royal Victoria Hospital in Montréal.
The terminally-ill patients and their loved ones I have been privileged to meet and accompany have taught me so much about life, about the value of sharing time together in an authentic way, and about the importance of being as fully present to others as possible when we are providing care.
As a spiritual care giver, it is not my role to have any agenda other than to be as fully present as I can be to our patients and their loved ones, and to help create what I call “sacred space” to help them explore whatever they want to explore in terms of what gives them a sense of meaning. Sometimes, this involves “religious” language but often it does not.
In my hospice role, I am often working with people within the context off anticipatory loss and helping them to discover and identify what hope can mean to them during that time of transition from end-of-life days to death. Hope can still be found even in these moments as people redefine for themselves what hope means to them. It is like that one little candle that can push back the darkness.