By client support volunteer Tom
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
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