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Gentle giant offers caring friendship at the end

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Peter Stanley has spent countless weekends visiting people near the end of their lives as a volunteer for Hospice and Palliative Care Manitoba.

WAYNE GLOWACKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Peter Stanley has spent countless weekends visiting people near the end of their lives as a volunteer for Hospice and Palliative Care Manitoba. Photo Store

Peter Stanley is known by many as the gentle giant.

The 51-year-old's physical presence, his lofty height, are secondary to the massive size of his heart. He is a man who encompasses all this holiday season is supposed to be about: the spirit of giving, the true acts of kindness and compassion of humanity.

Over the past 15 years, Stanley has offered the gift of friendship to many living their last days -- in their final hours, he has held their hands within his own large hands.

Stanley volunteers his time on the weekends to Hospice and Palliative Care Manitoba -- on Saturdays, he can often be found visiting people at the Riverview Health Centre's palliative care unit; on Sundays, he spends time with an individual the organization has matched him up with who is living with a terminal illness.

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"It is an absolute honour and privilege that they allow me into their lives at this point of their journey, at the end," reflected Stanley.

"People think it might be a negative experience, but it's really positive. Everybody is a book, everyone has a story to tell."

Hospice and Palliative Care Manitoba promotes compassionate, effective care for all Manitobans touched by any life-threatening condition or bereavement and provides services and education complementary to the formal health-care system.

To Stanley, the individuals with whom he visits are not clients, they are his friends. "How can you visit someone each week for nine months and not call them your friends?" he said with a smile.

"Peter is a very special volunteer," said Joan Lawless, development and communications co-ordinator with Hospice and Palliative Care Manitoba.

"You can call him at the spur of the moment, and it's amazing; he will always be there. He's even gone and visited someone at 11 in the evening."

Stanley, who works at Boeing, an organization he notes always encourages and supports him in his volunteer work, also volunteers for Hospice and Palliative Care Manitoba's Final Days, Final Hours program.

"Often, people may be unconscious, but you sit with them, hold their hand or put your hand on their shoulder," said Stanley. "It's important to me to provide them with that company in their final hours."

Stanley, whose own father died when he was young, admitted what he does is never easy. "When I find out someone who I have been visiting has passed away, it's sad. I'm overcome emotionally," he said.

Yet Stanley encapsulates a wisdom that reaches far beyond his years. "When people say to me, 'Oh, I don't know how you could do it,' it's because they are thinking of themselves," he said. "What I've learned over the years is it isn't about me, it's about the people I visit, my friends."

It's important to Stanley a part of his life is dedicated to selfless acts. And it is apparent his volunteer work has deeply impacted his life.

He looked back on all the individuals he has met over the years and said, "I have made so many friends. I don't regret a minute of it. They will always be in my heart, they will be with me for the rest of my life. I will never forget them. I will always consider them great friends of mine. I will remember them all."

To learn more about how to get involved or volunteer, visit Hospice and Palliative Care Manitoba's website at: www.manitobahospice.ca.

 

If you know a special volunteer who strives to make his or her community a better place to live, please contact Carolyn Shimmin-Bazak at carolynshimmin@gmail.com.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 16, 2013 B2

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