Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of February 27, 2006
Hector gives the gift of love
This palliative care volunteer is 'a hugger'
- WCR photo by Bill Glen
Palliative care volunteer Hector Marois holds a drink for Mary Pashko
By BILL GLEN
WCR Staff Writer
To become a palliative care volunteer, Hector Marois attended a training course and was asked what 10 things would he find the most difficult to be without if he was dying?
His final two selections came down to Jean, his wife of nearly 51 years, and the Lord.
He chose the Lord.
And that's fine with Jean.
Deeply committed to his marriage and large family, Marois would be lost without his faith in God.
"As much as my wife has done, he has done more when I think of what he did for me on the cross," said Marois, 73. "He paid the price I couldn't pay for myself. He had to be the one thing, or person, I could not give up."
Marois has volunteered at the Edmonton General Continuing Care Centre for more than 12 years - the last 10 years on the palliative ward, offering encouragement and prayer to the terminally ill.
A gentle welcoming
He serves tea, cake, ice cream or freshly baked bread with butter and jam every Monday to Friday from 2 p.m. until around 5:30 p.m. He greets families like his dear friends. He holds hands with the dying and prays with them and their grieving families.
Some have no one else.
"They are sick. A lot of them are old and wrinkly. They really appreciate someone coming in. Maybe all they want is a hug," Marois said. Then he smiled. "I am known as a hugger."
About 25 people reside on the palliative care floor (9Y) known as the Mel Miller Hospice. Their ages can vary from teenagers to the elderly. The majority suffer from cancer.
Marois finds it particularly difficult when a father or mother with young children comes in.
"Only by the grace of God can I do it. It's something I can't answer," he said. "The Lord has given me an ability to visit and encourage people who are dying."
Gloria Opgenorth has been a nurse on 9Y for almost 10 years. She was amazed by Marois' grace when she first saw him.
"He just blended right in. He could tell where help was needed as if he had a natural instinct."
Jean's aunt had a stroke and was in the General when Opgenorth noticed that Marois came every evening to help her eat her dinners and attend to her daily requirements.
He became friends with others and began to visit with them.
The staff took notice. They asked if he would like to volunteer on 9Y.
"I asked Jean if he worked with people and she said, 'No, it's just his way.'"
The residents on the floor look forward to his visits, Opgenorth said and Marois is well respected by staff and patients for his outgoing manner and genuine desire to help.
"I look forward to seeing them much more than they might be looking forward to seeing me," he said. "We have a wonderful time visiting.
"Spiritually, it's a real blessing for me to have this opportunity to go into their rooms which have become their homes, where 99 per cent of them will finish their lives.
"I get to know their families and be a source of encouragement."
Marois recalled a man who had been in the hospice for some time. He visited with him on several occasions. The man's wife came to see him almost every day.
The dying man was not outwardly religious. He had never been to church. The man's spirit had become quite low.
A prayer-filled departure
Marois thought he had finally accepted his mortality. He asked the man if he would like to pray. He agreed.
"I prayed with him and the next day as I walked past his door, he hollered to me not to leave without praying with him. Every day until he died, we prayed together and talked about the Lord," Marois said.
"Just before he passed away, his granddaughter gave him a small Gideon Bible she got from her school. He told me he read it. At the back, there was a statement that said if you trust in the Lord Jesus for what he has done for you - sign here. He told me he signed it.
"His family had no idea. When I was able to tell them, they were thrilled."
Marois worked his way up with Todd Dry Cleaners for 48 years, retiring four years ago as part-owner. He is an elder in his evangelical church - Westgrove Gospel Chapel - where he volunteers for Scripture readings and directs their plus-55 camp. He organizes activities for youth and seniors. He also sits on Caritas Health Group's volunteers board.
The Marois have five children, 21 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
"I can't do what Hector does, walking into a room with total strangers and talking with them. But I'm very happy to do whatever I can," Jean said.
Hector recounted, "Without Jean's support, I don't think I would be able to do it."
Edmonton General 's palliative care is glad Marois does what he does. "When Hector comes on the floor, somehow the atmosphere changes," Opgenorth said. "He is an inspiration, as if a light is turned on."