Every patient, every story, and end of each journey is important, memorable and special to me. However, one stands out as a supernatural human effort to gather his family together, and to die at home with his loved ones around him. Mark was a highly intelligent and determined person, admittedly a little pedantic, as he was a chemical engineer by profession. He was the chief engineer at a wine-bottle smelter & plant, living in California. He had family in North Carolina, but home to him was Durban, where his mother, brother and sister live.
Mark set out back to Durban on an epic trip to bring his family together from all across the globe. With just over a week to live, and a body severely weakened and in pain, he boarded a plane. Without telling his wife and daughters, with his body severely weakened and in such discomfort; he flew to North Carolina. From there to Washington, then a plane to Panama City and then on to San Paulo. From St Paulo he did the long haul across to Johannesburg, and then down to Durban as this was the quickest route to Durban. Once Mark was in Durban, he set about notifying all his family about his whereabouts, and getting his wife and daughters all across to South Africa and his other family up to Durban from Cape Town.
To avoid pressure from his wife and daughters to stay in the US; and to release pressure for the SA loved ones to travel there, he did not tell a soul about his plans to be in Durban. The family had little option but to be there once he told them his whereabouts. He succeeded in his unification goal through incredible effort and determination! I was there on his admission to Hospice a few days after his arrival in Durban, and he was already struggling to walk. He was in terrible pain all over, and close to 40kg’s in weight. I could not believe that this man was able to walk to the car, let alone carry bags and stand in queues in busy impersonal airports.
Mark was always thankful, polite and smiling before he passed; understandably, he wanted to be with his family, so our time together was short. I discovered that he believed we are here to do God’s work, and to “live in the now.” He will forever be close to my heart. A reminder of inner strength, driven by his love and determination. How amazing that he undertook his incredible last journey home, despite distance and pain, because it was the only way to get everybody together. What a privilege for us as Highway Hospice to help him to be at home and peace.
God bless you Mark – forever in our thoughts and it was my pleasure to know you.
Phillip has volunteered as a Highway Hospice caregiver for just over a year, and passed his 100th ward shift not long ago. 13 years after Hospice helped his mother through the dying process he asked for a sign; he was “slapped by one” which he refers to as supernatural…
“Amidst the suffering and heartbreak that I see on the wards, there is mostly a lot of joy, love, bridge-building and trust in God that I observe developing in people, and families as they come together to face the passing.” ~ Phillip Carlisle, October 2019