This is quite possibly my favourite “Tell Me Something Good” story yet. I encourage you to read this beautiful letter that was written by Tara Moffatt. Our community is amazing! Thank you to everyone who made this happen. My heart is so full.



I would like to take the opportunity to tell a story of love, compassion and a community coming together in a selfless act of kindness.

Everett Kirham has seen and done many things in his 86 years. Travelling the world, a master of many skills and father of 4 children; in his wife, Florence’s words “we have had a lot of fun together”. For many, if you have made something of yourself; provided for your family; been a great spouse and a good person then you have lived a good life. This knowledge is said to help us to come to peace with our life and our death. Even in knowing we are going to die there is always a part of us that wishes we could do “ one last Christmas….one last birthday party…one last trip to the cottage”. For Everett, a man who has travelled across our province, country and the world, the wish seemed to be a bit simpler, “I wish I could take one last drive with my wife”. Recently, Everett’s illness had rendered him more and more housebound, unable to do the simplest of tasks, like sit up on his own. Thus, getting out of the house was not an option. Largely, Everett’s days are spent on the couch looking out the front bay window in his cozy North Bay home watching the birds and squirrels; or watching his favorite programs on TV like the Waltons or Little House on the Prairie. He really had given up much hope of being able to get out of the house again before he died.

You will have noticed an extensive amount of news that says our health care system is broken and that the client or patient is falling through the cracks. Unfortunately, this is true in SOME cases, but there are also compassionate community members and health care providers who, despite this flawed system, are committed to putting the patient at the centre of all we do.

I was fortunate to have a referral to see Everett in his home to ensure that all of his physical pain and symptom management needs were addressed while he was progressing to end-of-life related to his chronic disease. When we met, I completed the typical physical assessment asking about his shortness of breath, pain, nausea ect. In addition, I also had the privilege in speaking to Everett about his hopes, fears and what brings him joy at this current time in his disease. As a Palliative Care provider, we pride ourselves on ensuring that we not only look at addressing the physical needs our patient’s have, but we also like to address if there is anything we can do to help them LIVE while they die. For some, this is as simple as getting the right equipment in the home, and for others it could be as complicated as trying to reconcile an estranged relationship as much as possible. For Everett he was sincere in acknowledging that he is fearful in not being able to see his grandchildren and great grandchildren as they get older. In addition, he shared what most people would consider a very trivial experience as one that would give him the greatest joy before he died. Everett wished that he could take one last drive with his wife along the North Bay Lakeshore AND, if able, drive by the new casino to “see how it is coming along”. It seems pretty simple right? We have wheel-chair vans and lift devices to put in the van, why not just put him in one of those? The catch to all of this was that he wished to go in the front seat of his own car (an SUV), with his wife by his side. He wanted to be able to look out the front window with the sun shining and his wife’s hand in his. Everett’s priority was not pain or nausea but rather one last, very personal drive with his best friend of 65 years.

Dame Cicely Saunders (a pioneer for Palliative Care) once said “ You matter because you are you, and you matter to the end of your life. We will do all we can to not only to help you die peacefully, but also to LIVE until you die.” With this philosophy in mind a community of committed providers came together to show Everett that he and his family matter. That same afternoon I had just met Everett and Florence, I made a call to Deputy Chief Greg Saunders and Chief Jason Whitely of the North Bay Fire Department. I left a message on both Greg and Jason’s voicemail outlining an unusual request “Is there any way we can get this man into his own car, so he can have one last drive in the sun down to the lakeshore with his wife of 65 years…..the catch…he is dying and we need to do this as soon as possible”. Within 30 minutes of those phone calls, Greg called me back with 5 simple words “ Tara, lets make it happen!” From there it was a matter of looking at the weather, the date and time and a back-up plan should the crew get called away to an emergency.   Greg and Jason kindly organized their crew; Crystal at Home and Community Care notified all of the community Nurse’s, PSWs and HSWs of the date and time of the “drive”; and Florence took care in notifying the children and extended family members.

On Friday February 14th the North Bay Fire Department went above and beyond and showed up at Everett’s front door. At 1:30 pm this incredible team carried Everett to the front seat of his car while his wife Florence and daughter Louise got settled into the back. Everett’s son Keith promptly got into the driver’s seat while Everett was safely buckled in. The day was cold, a typical Northern Ontario winter’s day, but the sun was shining and the sky was blue. Surrounded by family and community members, 65 years of love and friendship drove out of that driveway and headed towards the lake.

If you were to speak to any one of us that were involved in this day we would say what an honor and a privilege it was to be part of a moment like this. However, selfishly, I would like to take a moment to acknowledge and to give a sincere thank you to Greg, Jason and their team of firefighters for their self-less commitment to their community members. Margaret Mead said it well “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed it’s the only thing that ever has”.   Thank you for helping to move this world to one of compassionate communities. Finally, to Everett, Florence and the Kirkham family; THANK YOU for the humbling and beautiful reminder of why we do what we do.

Tara Moffatt MN, RN, CHPCN, CON

Palliative Pain and Symptom Management Consultant , Nipissing and Parry Sound

Photo Credit: BayToday Staff