Hospice volunteers celebrate Dame Cicely

Two hospice volunteers are sharing the story of the founder of modern hospice

Two hospice volunteers are getting people to think and talk about dying and palliative care by sharing the story of Dame Cicely Saunders, the founder of modern hospice.

Margaret Murphy is an accomplished storyteller and has written and performed several other pieces about the lives of important Canadian women. When Wendy Potter approached her to say she’d like to work with her on a new piece, because they are both Nanaimo Community Hospice volunteers, Dame Cicely Saunders was the obvious choice, says Potter.

Potter and Murphy researched, wrote and performed Cicely! The Life and Work of Dame Cicely. Three performances are scheduled for early October, including two in Nanaimo.

Murphy plays Dame Cicely, speaking at age 80 about her life and work, while Potter — who has worked on dozens of lighting designs for the Ladysmith Little Theatre, including the recurrent production, Flemming: An American Thriller — plays Narrator, giving background and contextual information.

A nurse, social worker and doctor, Dame Cicely established new methods of pain control and initiated an innovative, holistic approach to caregiving for terminally ill patients and their families.

“She saw a need for a home for critically-ill patients and for a rounded care,” said Murphy. “She literally changed the face of hospice, palliative care.”

Murphy and Potter have been working on this presentation for two and a half years. They launched it during two sold-old fundraisers in 2013.

“They were very well-received, and we realized the story of Dame Cicely was a wonderful way to enter into a discussion about end-of-life care and begin a dialogue,” said Murphy. “We really appreciate that dialogue opening.”

Cicely! will be shown this Sunday at 4 p.m. and Monday at 7 p.m. at The Unitarian Fellowship Hall in Nanaimo. Admission is free, with the shows sponsored by the St. Andrews Presbyterian community in Nanaimo and an individual.