Stepping onto the new Kalein Hospice Centre property in Rosemont, you could easily forget you’re still in the city.
The 10,000 square foot site — formerly home to a monastery for the Sisters of the Precious Blood — features a mature cedar grove that seems to shelter it from the hustle and bustle of the outside world.
It’s there that more than 200 people gathered Saturday for a land dedication ceremony and to learn how the Kalein society intends to transform the site into Nelson’s first free standing hospice.
Kalein executive director Sandi Leatherman was overwhelmed by the support she received at the event.
“Bringing people together today in one place, being inspired by the beauty of the land and the losses we’ve all experienced — I don’t have the words to describe it — it’s so much more than what I imagined,” she said, wiping a tear from her eye.
The society has moved its offices into the former monastery building and is currently sharing the land with Self Design High school, which is using it as an outdoor classroom.
There’s lots of strategic planning — and lots of fundraising — needed before they can get the hospice going. But Leatherman said having the property, and a critical mass of supporters, gives her hope that her 30 year dream is close to becoming a reality.
“The collective is what’s going to make this thing grow,” she said. “There are unlimited possibilities for what we can do here. Bringing people together and inviting the conversation is going to transform the fear that often keeps us separate.”
Leatherman became passionate about hospice care in the 80s. She was living in San Francisco at the height of the AIDS epidemic.
“I was watching my friends dying and many times they were dying alone because many times their families didn’t understand HIV/AIDS and turned their back on them,” she said. “At that point, I became committed to something really different. Nobody should die alone.”
She became involved in end of life care and grief work. In Nelson she connected with people who shared her passion and who are now working with her and the Kalein society to find ways to understand and celebrate death, and create a place where that’s the central focus.
“The growing of a hospice house excites me, it offers another option for the people in this community,” she said. “But what excites even more is the dialogue that can open up our hearts in ways that will heal ourselves, and the community, and the planet.”
The Kalein Hospice Centre is located at 402 West Richards Street. For information see, kaleinhospice.org.