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Music often weaves its way into the fabric of our lives. So, it is not surprising that music can often play an important and poignant role in our last moments.
That was the case for Mary Stubbert, a loving mother of four, grandmother and wife. Mary died just shy of her 91st birthday on Nov. 3, 2019.
As her daughter Hope Gaskell will attest, she was ready to leave this life.
Mary decided after diagnosis that treatment was really not for her. No X-rays, no feeding tubes, rather a resolute recognition that her time was coming. In the six weeks before her death, Mary spent time in hospital, receiving care from the palliative care service in the Cape Breton Regional Hospital.
Hospice Cape Breton partners with the hospital service to support the patients and families receiving palliative care.
One of those supports includes the music therapy program.
Jill Murphy is a music therapist with a natural and nurturing manner that helps to put a song in the patient’s heart as well as on their lips.
Murphy was a frequent and welcome visitor of Mary’s and was always able to play family favourites, starting with Johnny Cash songs. One of Mary’s favourite was “Hello Country Bumpkin,” which Murphy gladly performed while Mary tapped and clapped along.
Murphy learned that Mary’s husband, who had died several years earlier, had composed a song in honour of his boyhood home entitled “Beautiful Point Aconi” and later recorded by the Barra MacNeils.
In a poignant gift for the family, Murphy put the audio of Mary’s heartbeat under the music of that very special song.
Gaskell said she has listened to it but needs a little more time before doing so again. Still, she recognizes the comfort that it will hold in the future.
Gaskell was also struck by the caring and compassionate manner of the staff.
“They were so accommodating, and when you have so many questions, it meant a lot to have people to turn to,” said Gaskell. “It was also nice to be able to go to the kitchen when a break was needed, where homemade goods and helping hands were readily available.”
One of the other things that struck Gaskell was just how peaceful it was in the palliative care unit — An Cala — at the regional hospital.
“It’s not the same as a busy hospital. It’s quiet. It’s peaceful.”
Mary Stubbert was the type of person who was more concerned about the welfare of others rather than her own.
In her interactions with Murphy, she learned that Jill had a young family and was quite mad at herself when she forgot to tell her family to buy Halloween treats for Jill’s kids.
Unlike many people, Mary didn’t want to die at home. In her usual selfless way, she felt it would be too much of a burden to her family. And that’s why the family is so grateful for the care she received through the palliative care service.
Knowing that it is not always possible to die at home is one of the reasons the Hospice Palliative Care Society of Cape Breton is building our community’s first 10-bed hospice facility.
Slated to open in the fall of 2021, every detail is being carefully considered and designed with the needs of the patient and family in mind.
The hospice will house a bright and beautiful family room, a welcoming kitchen, quiet room, all surrounded by colourful and tranquil gardens. Each patient’s room will be big, bright and able to accommodate a family member wishing to stay overnight. The hospice will help families make the most of every precious moment, and will allow them to focus on what’s truly important — each other.
Mary’s loving family is grateful for the care she received and the legacy she leaves behind. Her memory will continue to live in the hearts of those who loved her, and her heart will continue to beat under the exquisite melody of “Beautiful Point Aconi.”
To learn more about Hospice Cape Breton and the services it provides, visit hospicecapebreton.org.