Sally’s sister, a student nurse, took three months off to be with her mother. But, being 1958, people didn’t know how to talk about death or were intimidated by the word “death” thus it wasn’t talked about with their mother. Children were to be protected… they are too young to handle death.
A week before Sally’s baby was born, her mother died. As time passed, Sally lived with the guilt of not being there for her dying mother. She took in her little sister with little understanding of a child’s grief, thus adding to her guilt.
In 1982, as hospice /palliative care became the growing practice for care of the dying, Sally was employed in the Home Care Nursing program. Although she had her own fears about caring for the dying patient, Sally met the challenge by learning as much as she could in this new field. Armed with growing knowledge about the dying process and the needs of the dying, Sally was invited to sit on the board of the Alberni Valley Hospice Society in 1985.
“Perhaps I was motivated by the unresolved guilt I felt around my mother’s death. Whatever, it was, I felt this was the place I was supposed to be… this was the work I was supposed to be doing. I took every opportunity to get extra training. When Doctor Mary Brown, a force in the field of palliative care in Canada, came to Nanaimo, I was spell-bound! Soon, Sally was immersed in the training of volunteers in the ever-expanding Palliative Care Program of the AV Hospice Society.
Her love of training volunteers and being with dying patients became an absolute passion and kept Sally motivated with the AV Hospice until her very recent resignation.
Fueled by her passion, it became Sally’s mission to educate people on the process of dying to help them understand that it is a critical and natural stage of life. It is an opportunity for growth as priorities shift dramatically to what is really important and vital emotional and spiritual work can be done, both by the dying person and by the family.
“The purpose of hospice care is the provide comfort and support so that the work of the final journey can be about living while you are dying. It’s about listening to concerns, cares, hopes, dreams, fears, anger and anything else that is on the dying person’s mind - without judgment or censure.
Whenever I have the privilege of being with a dying person, I always feel that I am on sacred ground.” Sally concludes.
In 2007, Sally received a life-time membership for 25 years of exceptional ground-breaking service. Presented annually, it is now the Sally Hodgson Award granted to those volunteers whose time and effort devoted to the AV Hospice Society makes a significant difference to the local landscape of palliative care.