by Sandy Rawson

Editor’s note: Healing House Canada is holistic residential approach to health & wellness. A Healing House is based on principles of naturopathic medicine for prevention, rejuvenation & detoxification. Its conception came from a perceived need for places where people can access natural therapies in an inpatient environment. A Healing House can have a variety of specialities. Hosts can care for people who are ill or suffering from exhaustion. They can care for people who are dying or help someone birth naturally. Located in rural west Ottawa, Canada, the Carp Ridge Healing House accommodates up to six guests in a peaceful and relaxing woodland setting. It is supervised by naturopathic doctors. For more info call 613-839-1198.

heal-house-picChoosing to become a host at the Carp Ridge Healing House was easy for me. When the position was offered I knew that it was a natural next step in my evolution of self and service. What I didn’t know was that one of my first experiences with a guest would be assisting my beautiful sister Carol to heal into her own approaching death.

About two weeks prior to her last visit to the Healing House, Carol had first been welcomed as a guest healing into life. When she left from this initial stay she offered a comment in our guest book about Healing House services and its level of comfort:

“To all of you at Carp Ridge — this has been a wonderful experience for me. I think I’ve finally learned how to relax, with your help. You have great people and your staff is very caring. I wish you all the best in the future. You’ll be seeing me again.”

When I read the message I didn’t know that Carol would be returning to us so soon, or that it would be for the last time.

On the morning of December 27th, 2008, our family was shoulder to shoulder in a hospital room. Our parents, Carol’s husband and her siblings absorbed the words of finality that came to confirm her impending death. The doctor’s diagnosis was delivered with the accompanying hospital noises of beeping, humming bright lights, occasional rings and passing voices out in the hallway. They seemed little associated with what we were experiencing in this room. I looked into Carol’s eyes and saw confusion as she struggled to integrate the new information amidst the distractions.

Looking around the room, past the monitoring equipment that was now being turned off and disconnected from my sister, I noticed the chipped paint and scuff marks on the walls. The one sad attempt for improving the feel of the room consisted of a picture of a fall scene, torn from a magazine and taped to the wall near the foot of the bed.

Beauty had always been a part of Carol’s life. She created it in her home and in the homes of family and friends. She was something of an artist, always eager to share her natural talent with those of us who were less gifted. Knowing the importance Carol placed on her surroundings, I decided that something had to change.

While I understood the importance of asking my sister and our family to let go of the security and familiarity of a hospital setting, and to trust in what I felt was a better alternative for Carol’s last days, it didn’t make suggesting it any easier. I hesitated in speaking up, but then was encouraged by the knowledge that Carol had already been a satisfied guest at Healing House. I knew the kind of care and tranquility we could offer.

“Carol — would you like to return to Healing House?”

“I’d love to,” she whispered in a soft but powerful voice. That set the wheels in motion toward an unforgettable experience of courage, compassion, loss and appreciation.

Christmas had passed with little notice by our family. A few days after, with full support of the hospital staff, Carol arrived by ambulance at Carp Ridge. Freezing rain was falling and I went back into the house to get her a blanket. Coming back out I said, “You must be cold.” Carol replied, “No — this feels fantastic.”

I knew then that we’d been blessed with an opportunity for everyone to share the best Christmas gift imaginable: each other.

Weeks of bearing pain and stress were clearly etched in my sister’s face, and she appeared to be only a shadow of the sister I had always known. But within hours of her settling into bed we witnessed an incredible transformation. Time seemed to go backward as a soft pink hue returned to Carol’s complexion. The many wrinkles that had slowly appeared now softened as members of our family shared their appreciation of having had her in their lives.

On the morning of December 29th Carol’s twenty year old son lovingly held her hand while she listened to a poem of friendship, written and now read to her by a dear chum. Several members of the family were in adjacent rooms visiting and catching up. Within the relaxed and homey environment, everyone seemed to be fully present in body, mind and spirit. Carol’s little dog Harry enjoyed everyone’s affections.

“You are exactly where you are supposed to be, doing exactly what you are supposed to be doing.”

This was on the card I’d picked from the ‘Ask and It is Given’ deck the evening of Carol’s arrival at Healing House. I’d never felt I had any doubts about becoming a host, but if any had been lingering in the shadows of my mind, they faded completely as I took in my surroundings that night. Some people were settled in front of the glow and warmth of the fireplace, others were in the kitchen sharing a meal, and our young ones were enjoying a movie. We had all come together in mutual support, knowing that a mother, sister, aunt, wife, daughter and friend was able to complete her final days of life in an environment of serenity and love.

I would wish the passing of all loved ones to be as graceful and gentle as what we and Carol experienced last winter. And I know that we were blessed to have an opportunity to go through our loss in a setting that enhanced deep feelings of appreciation, nurtured a peaceful closure to Carol’s life and allowed everyone a healthy ‘letting go’. For Carol, it was a letting go of her life on this earth, and for me, the letting go of a sister into her next journey.

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A biographical note, by freelance writer Karen Secord: Sandy Rawson is one of three hosts at Carp Ridge Healing House. She is a helper; a strong, reliable nurturer with a gentleness that others find inspiring. She is a roll-up-your-sleeves and get the job done kind of worker, friend and confidante. Whether preparing a meal, installing a bathroom fixture, or strolling through the forest with a guest, Sandy always gives 110%.

As a host Sandy is able to combine her appreciation for healing and natural health principles with her love of the outdoors and well developed problem-solving skills.

Sandy’s energetic, yet thoughtful approach to life is uniquely calming and joyfully pleasing. An easy and effective communicator, she is responsive to each guest’s individual needs. She instinctively knows the importance of listening. She honours the role that rest has in healing. And she welcomes the opportunity to make the most of each day.

A life-long learner, Sandy has a certificate in Crisis Management and Human Psychology and has successfully completed courses in Journey Work, NLP, Quantum Touch, Reiki, and Learning Intelligence.

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