During the ’80s, as AIDS was decimating the gay & lesbian communities of Toronto, I volunteered with various community organizations. Some raised funds to fight the disease and others focused on supporting those living with the virus. There were political action groups that fought for our human rights as LGBT citizens. My work with the Toronto Order of Perpetual Indulgence brought a spiritual element to the very worldly issues we confronted. It seemed a minor element at the time, in light of the great injustices that surrounded me.
In addition to the fundraising activities, I sat with patients in Casey House, a hospice for hiv/aids patients. After I swore off funerals I spent more time there, as I felt that such comfort as I could provide was a better use of my time, energy and emotion. In more recent times, I was sadly not able to spend much time with either of my parents in their last days. One of my sisters (biological rather than spiritual) was. Asked about the experience, she said “having that chance to be there with them is something I will never forget, or be able to fully explain. It’s sad and happy and spiritual.” The words brought back memories of my life 30+ years ago.
We have largely lost touch with our primal approaches to death. To a certain degree, our modern medical and funereal practises have removed focus from the dignity, peace and spiritual concerns of the person passing away and placed it solely on those remaining. I was reminded, with great force, at Dad’s service, that we who remain are never unchanged by the passing of a loved one. And so Rubber Chicken Ministries is committed to helping make the experience of dying something less isolated, if no less painful, for all those impacted. As part of the funeral/memorial process for we who remain, or for the person facing their mortality, the healing power of rituals grand or precise are perhaps most needed at such times.
There are times and areas where we are beginning to reconnect with traditions older than the earliest movable type printing press. Some pregnant women have been able, as finances permit, to avail themselves of the services of a doula. The word seems to be of Greek origin, and is generally defined now as “an assistant who provides physical and emotional support, in a non-medical capacity, during childbirth.” Most childbirth Doulas are women who have actually experienced giving birth.
The concept of ‘End of Life Doula‘ is new- replacing, it seems, the traditional support offered by clergy (and other persons religious) as well as extended, multi-generational families that resided in close proximity to each other. But it is based on the ancient sense of community that did not shuttle the age and infirm into distant facilities and sterile, programmed, memorial services. It may not be the perfect substitute, but it is an option for someone who seeks an ‘end of life guide’ to accompany them and their families through their final days together. I am committed to help make the experience of dying something less isolated, if no less painful, for all those impacted.
What services do you provide?
An End of Life Doula (ELD) is not a member of a medical team. I am present to provide spiritual and ritual support to the person who is dying, as well as any loved ones who are there. That might include prayer, open discussion of the patient’s experience, preparation for their final moments, recording last thoughts and their desires around a memorial service and/or legacy notes. I may also be available to conduct a Memorial Service if requested.
Are you licensed?
Various organizations and businesses will issue certificates after completing their specific offering, but there is not official licensing board or agency for ELDs in the USA.
What training or experience do you have?
I first sat with patients in Casey House, a hospice for hiv/aids patients in Toronto during the ’80s and ’90s. My community was dying, quickly, far too young, and often without family support. I had previously been a peer counselor on a Gay Youth phoneline, trained to offer a compassionate ear without judgment.
My spiritual background is as extensive. I was baptized in the United Church of Canada while young and again in The Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto as an adult. I now identify as a “nontheist spiritual humanist” and am Ordained in the Universal Life Church.
Do you work with a specific hospice?
I serve my client’s interests whether at home, hospice, or other facility. as permitted.
Do you work only with LGBT clients?
Although Rubber Chicken Ministries is a queer humanist ministry, I am called to serve everyone in the community.
Do you charge for your ELD services?
I will commit to as much time as the process or patient requires. I ask for a donation to cover my expenses as I am not paid by any insurance company and will put other work on hold for the duration.
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