Written by Cynthia Emiry Roy
I am asked by a lot of lovely people what’s my story. “Why spend the last 15 years working in hospice, why go through the last seven years building a hospice center?” Obviously the drive, passion and emotional wherewithal it takes to do this kind of work comes from within. It’s a deeply personal journey for me and one I do not typically share publicly. People close to me know that building this hospice center is personal. In many ways it’s a tribute to my best friend Lesley who died many years ago and changed my life forever. And probably one of the reasons I became a social worker and was compelled to care for the dying.
Lesley was diagnosed with a terminal form of leukemia in August and died the following May. Over the nine months she was sick, Lesley endured rigorous chemo. We picked out wigs together…we did all that we could to be together even when she was feeling really sick, we would lay together on the couch watching television side by side. We were very close…shared everything, talked incessantly and had no fear about being brutally honest with each other about our deepest fears and worries. We even picked out Lesley’s head stone inscription, “just in case we ever needed it…”
As Lesley got sicker, she remained fiercely positive that she would beat this illness. In private, I read her Raymond Moody’s book “Life after Life”…just in case, a cure was not to be…so she would not be scared of what happened to her after she died. We talked about how we would communicate with one another after she died. It’s like we knew what was ahead of us.
“I will twinkle the light”…she said, “Look for signs I am here with you.”
She assured me as she was dying she would be my angel. We talked about these things so naturally… It was as though our paths were meant to find each other. We were meant to be best friends in life and in death. We were soul mates. We said everything we wanted to say to each other and we got to say our goodbyes…
I told her what she had meant to me…the best friend, soul mate, angel in life and death. Lesley left me the most beautiful letter she had written to me for after she passed. I treasure every beautiful word in that letter, and I know Lesley has never really left me.
Today I do not believe it is a coincidence that Lesley came into my life so many years ago…
She is always with me, my angel helping guide me and provides love and strength to me. Today, I reflect on what our dying patients need and want, always thinking of Lesley and the gift she gave me.
Although Lesley died too young…her memory and love is the guiding strength that helped me build this hospice. With every finishing detail, every piece of furniture, balconies and gardens…the view out of the patient rooms, the feel of the sheets patients sleep in…. This is a personal journey for me. This building is a tribute to Lesley, and to all the patients and families who we care for every day. Each one of them has a story that is personal and leaves an imprint on our lives… This building is for all of them.