Brand building through storytelling

My mentor in dying

When I first saw Pauline Faull, who died one week ago in Port Hope after years of leadership in the hospice movement, she was standing on the doorstep of the Cabbagetown Victorian where my family had gathered to meet our greatest crisis: my mother’s terminal illness.

I’d been expecting an earnest Birkenstocker, no more stylish than a bedpan. Pauline, then in her early 50s, would have fitted right in at the highest of teas in a full-skirted white shirtwaist dress that harked back to Dior’s New Look, with red high heels and matching earrings that caught the sun. “You dressed up…for US!” I exclaimed (or maybe it was Joyce), because who gets glamorous to visit a dying woman in a house askew with sadness? But Pauline maintained that hospice visits can be joyful, and deserve a sense of occasion.

Twenty-six years later, I’m not sure what I found most beautiful about her–the restorative elegance of her dress, the vividness of her chiseled face or the lilting accent of her Northern Irish hometown, Derry (also known as Londonderry, she said, in one of those offhand remarks that contain a world of trouble bravely borne). My mother had always treasured beauty, honored it in every detail of the home she had filled with green plants (now bedraggled) and Mexican throw cushions from her travels (now crumpled, like us). As the world she had created fell apart, Pauline tethered us to what remained. I don’t remember many things she said or did; mostly, her gift was a bright, steadfast presence in my family’s hour of lead.

She never told us much about her life; we were always her focus. I know she trained as a nurse and later studied with Elisabeth Kubler Ross; her obituary says she died surrounded by family “in the embrace of The Bridge Hospice, the founding of which she tirelessly championed.” I hope at least one person at her bedside was wearing bright earrings and matching high heels.

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