During COVID, I became a caregiver to a dear friend during his final months with terminal brain cancer. Although this role usually falls to partner or family, I stepped in as Scot (known as Surya) had neither a partner nor any family close by. As the brain tumor continued to degrade his abilities, from memory and speech to balance and walking, and even tasks like writing, reading and using his phone, it became harder and harder for him to live independently. Further, mini-seizures, strokes and brain bleeds were beginning to occur, along with random trips to the ER. Eventually, Surya needed much more help than I, his palliative homecare team or other caring members in his circle could provide, and he faced hospitalization or hospice.

At this time, we were in the initial throes of COVID where both options would have quarantined him for 2 weeks. With the daily regression he was experiencing, it was highly likely that he would either die or slip into a coma during this timeframe. As Surya lived for connection and had a wide circle of friends, being cut off from everyone he cared for during his final days and dying alone was not an option he was willing to entertain.

As such, he painstakingly opted for MAID. Although a heartwrenching decision at 42 years old, the option to choose MAID was also a great gift.

Surya loved life and wasn’t ready to say goodbye, but the cancer was growing relentlessly, building incredible pressure within his skull and his pain and suffering had become intolerable. The only power he had left was to surrender to the inevitable and choose how—and with whom—he spent his remaining time. His final days were filled with an outpouring of love and healing. He reconnected with family and friends and shared last (and first) “I love yous.”

On Surya’s final day, he had a special shave, wore his chosen outfit and saw his favourite people. A beautiful outdoor ceremony was arranged where he could be in the fresh air, feel the sunshine, hear the birds and be surrounded by those he loved most.

Last words were said. Hugs were shared. Tears were shed. And love flew him out.

Although MAID was a great gift, it was also extraordinarily difficult. Personally, as his friend, caregiver and the one who helped him organize and execute his provision of MAID, I felt very alone, isolated and misunderstood in my grief. Further, I wasn’t aware of the supports and resources for MAID that I am now. I have lost many loved ones, but found this experience to be an entirely unique kind of grief. As a certified coach trained in emotional processing, grief and healing, I have decided to volunteer with MAID Family Support Society as a peer support to offer to others what I wish I had had myself.