The vital importance of making time for people

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I came to know Sathya when we lived in Lord Roberts. She lived in Riverview, on the other side of Osborne Street, a few blocks away from us. Like me, she was a lover of plant-based foods and cared very much about our neighbourhood. Over about five years and through many online conversations I learned of some of her struggles with accessing good food and health-care services on her limited budget. She had been diagnosed with ALS in 2006.

I would occasionally cook vegan meals for her. My partner would drop them off. Sometimes I’d tag along. She’d send me appreciative notes, thoughtful little gifts, cards and entertaining voicemails, sharing some of the day’s news. I’d often think of her in between our chats, as a strong-willed, articulate woman — intelligent, insightful, creative, and funny. A memorable force.

I would tell myself to take the time to connect with her more, especially as I grew to understand some of her challenges as a single woman without family. Then the pandemic happened, and our move to St. Boniface. I continued to make the occasional meal for her, and my partner would drive containers filled with tofu veggie scramble, lentil stew and yearly Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners over to her home. I kept thinking of her between messages and voicemails filled with her laughter, warmth and quirkiness.

Supplied photo by Sathya Dhara Kovac

In her absence, Sathya Dhara Kovac asked that we pet a dog, feed someone hungry, help an animal, be open to learning, look to the sky for the beauty and the medicine it can provide, be real and honest, and treat each other well.

And time kept happening. Then, on an early morning in mid-September there was a message from her.

“I want you to know that I’m leaving…” she wrote.

Confused, but with my heart sinking, I told her as much, adding, “Can you please clarify?”

“End of life,” she wrote back.

Those three words began a most painful time of reflection for me, as Sathya began entrusting me with her words and sending me some of her notes on the health-care system and her struggle accessing what she needed to live. She had longed for community and connection, and had been searching, especially over the last year, for assistance.

Sathya Dhara Kovac died on Monday, Oct. 3. She was 44 years old, and chose MAID (medical assistance in dying) to end her life.

She wasn’t really asking for much. Just basic care in her home. She’s not here anymore because she couldn’t get it.

In her absence she asked that we pet a dog, feed someone hungry, help an animal, be open to learning, look to the sky for the beauty and the medicine it can provide, be real and honest, and treat each other well.

Her life and her death have given me a renewed sense of the vital importance of community, of paying attention, of being a good neighbour and human being. And, most importantly, of making time for people.

Janine LeGal

Janine LeGal
St. Boniface community correspondent

Janine LeGal is a community correspondent for St. Boniface who also writes the These Old Houses column for our Community Homes section.

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