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Beautiful Point Aconi

Mary Stubbert with her family. Son George, daughters Hope Gaskell, Joan Stubbert, and Iris Murphy.

Music often weaves its way into the fabric of our lives. So, it is not surprising that music can often play an important and poignant role in our last moments. That was the case for Mary Stubbart, a loving mother of four, grandmother, and wife. Mary passed away just shy of her 91st birthday on November 3, 2019. As her daughter Hope will attest, she was ready.

Mary decided that the treatments for her diagnosis were not really for her. No x-rays, no feeding tubes, rather a resolute recognition that her time was coming. In the six weeks before her death, Mary spent time in the hospital, receiving care in the An Cala Unit from the Palliative Care Service physicians and nursing staff at the Cape Breton Regional Hospital. Hospice Cape Breton partners with the Service to support the patients and families receiving palliative care. One of those supports includes the music therapy program.

Jill Murphy is a music therapist, with a natural and nurturing manner that helps to put a song in a patient’s heart as well as on their lips. Jill was a frequent and welcome visitor of Mary’s and was always able to play family favourites, starting with Johnny Cash. One of Mary’s favourites was Hello Country Bumpkin, which Jill gladly played while Mary tapped and clapped along with her. Jill learned that Mary’s husband, who had passed away several years earlier, had composed a song in honour of his boyhood home, Beautiful Point Aconi, later recorded by the Barra MacNeils. In a poignant gift for the family, Jill put the audio of Mary’s heartbeat under the music of that very special song. Hope says she has listened to it but needs a little more time before doing so again. Still, she recognizes the comfort that it will hold in the future.

Hope was also struck by the caring and compassionate manner of the staff. “They were so accommodating, and when you have so many questions, it meant a lot to have people to turn to,” said Hope. “It was also nice to be able to go to the kitchen when a break was needed, where homemade goods and helping hands were readily available.”  One of the other things that struck Hope was just how serene it was in the An Cala Unit.  “It’s not the same as a busy hospital, it’s quiet. It’s peaceful.”

Mary was the type of person that was more concerned about others’ welfare than her own. In her interactions with Jill, she learned that Jill had a young family and was quite upset with herself when she forgot to tell her family to buy Halloween treats for Jill’s children. Unlike many, Mary didn’t want to die at home. In her usual selfless way, she felt it would be too much of a burden to her family. And why the family is so grateful for the care received through the Palliative Care Service.

Knowing that it is not always possible to die at home is one of the reasons that Hospice Cape Breton is building our community’s first 10-bed Hospice. Slated to open in the fall of 2021, every detail is being carefully considered and designed with the needs of the patient and family in mind. The Hospice will house a bright and beautiful family room, a welcoming kitchen, quiet room, all surrounded by colourful and tranquil gardens. Each patient’s room will be big, bright, and able to accommodate a family member wishing to stay overnight. The Hospice will help families make the most of every precious moment and will allow them to focus on what’s truly important—each other.

Mary’s loving family is grateful for the care she received, and the legacy she leaves behind. Her memory will continue to live in the hearts of those who loved her, and her heart will continue to beat under the exquisite melody of Beautiful Point Aconi.