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Although Chetwynd’s hospital is fairly small, it’s large enough to have a palliative care

unit which consists of two rooms straddling the end of one of the hospital’s few hallways.

The simplistic east-facing room is for the patient. The west-facing room is for the family.

It’s jam packed with a couch, table, cot, coffee pot and small refrigerator. In palliative

care, visiting hours don’t matter.

Sandra (Sandy) Cotton, a forty-five year old mother and wife, is laying in the centre of

the bed in the east room with ropes of wires and tubes snaking their way under the

layers of blankets she’s buried beneath. She’s been in this room once before, but at

that time, it was just a room. A room to put her in that was comfortable while she

undergone some tests. Big windows, pictures on the wall, and a brightly coloured

homemade afghan on the bed all tried their very best to hide the sterility of the hospital.

They fell short of their task.

But this time isn’t like the last time. This time the end of the hallway buzzed with the

anxious energy of the people who paced back in forth in front of Sandy’s door.

Beside the door into Sandy’s room is a small table covered with a white table cloth. On

top of the table is a basket of orange Campino candies--Sandy’s favourite. Next to

those is a sign stating Sandy isn’t up to seeing visitors, but please sign the guest book

to let her know you’ve stopped by.


Hovering around Sandy’s bed are her family and closest friends. Each of them trying

their best to keep it together. For her sake.

Standing next to the head of the bed is Sandy’s daughter, Sarah. She’s looking down at

her mother with such pain and love in her face. Taking a deep sigh, Sarah tries to hold

back the tears that have been plaguing her for days. Next to Sandy is her husband,

Brian. And after nearly 30 years together, the two know each other as much as two

people can. He holds her hand, stroking it softly with his fingers as he tries to grasp

what is happening.

On the other side of Sandy’s bed is her sister, Heather. The two are spitting images of

each other, even though there’s more than a decade between them. Beside Heather is

Sandy’s nurse. She’s dressed casually, but her somber look and the stethoscope

around her neck betray her purpose. She’s not there for support, but to announce the

inevitable. She picks up Sandy’s wrist and glances at the clock while navigating her

fingers to find the pulse.

Sarah glances around the room at the people who’ve gathered for this moment.

Scattered around the bed and into the corners of the room are Sandy’s closest friends.

Some have known her for over half her life. Some have only come into the picture

within the last few years. For two years now they’ve all known this coming, that it was

the only outcome, barring a miracle straight from God.


Glancing back down at her mother, Sarah notices that her chest has stopped rising and

falling. “She’s not breathing,” Sarah says, stuck somewhere between a question and a

statement.

“Well, no,” the nurse replies. “Her heartbeat is very weak. If you have something to say

you had better say it now.”

Sarah, who’d said her goodbyes earlier, begins to sob as everyone crowds around her

mother’s bed.

A few seconds later, shortly after three in the afternoon, Sandy’s heart beats for the last

time. She has lost her battle with breast cancer.