I attended a preview of Ballet BC‘s first program for the new 2017-2018 season (season 32). Thanks to Ballet BC and Instameet Vancouver, registered participants were provided access to the venue to watch and photograph the preview performance. Season 32 Program 1 was held for open view to the public on three consecutive evenings: 2, 3, and 4 November.
With these pictures, I explore the perspective of witnessing a parent’s unstoppable decline to the end. While there are no pictures of my father in this set, I give voice to growing distress at his final journey as my gaze drifted externally to the hospital itself and immediate surroundings. Northern summers, specifically August, now mean something entirely different.
On 19 July 2014, Dad was taken to Vancouver’s St. Paul’s Hospital after he had a minor fall down the stairs at home. No bones were broken, which was remarkable considering his worsening health in the final stages of cancer. He would never return to the house in which he and Mum had bought and lived since 1976. By the 2nd week, he had been moved to the Palliative Care Unit (PCU) on the 10th floor. The wonderful hospital staff took great care of him and other patients in the unit. Dad charmed the PCU staff by chatting with them in broken English; it was his way of exerting some measure of control. By the 3rd week of his hospital stay, his mind and spirit had departed, and he had become completely unresponsive. Over the next five days, his body remained, breathing steady, though often shallow and laboured. He was calm and at peace, and thanks to the meds, with diminished pain. I was with Dad a part of every day for the following 21 days until his death on 9 August; he had celebrated his 82nd birthday a few weeks earlier.
I looked out the windows to summer skies, to tell him the city he’d known for over 40 years was still out there. I was also in a hot rage because the rest of the world continued on unworried and uncaring, leaving Dad and the suffering and the dying behind. Entropy is all fine a concept until it reaches out and fucks with your reason for being.
There’s a lounge area for family and friends, down the hallway at some distance from patients’ beds. In the lounge are couches, chairs, a piano, books, and a small kitchenette with a fridge, microwave, and a place to make coffee or tea. There’s also a small balcony with additional deck chairs for people to sit outside in the shade; the balcony is where I made pictures (6) above and (12) below. With the lounge at the building’s southwest corner, there’s an outstanding west-facing view to the rest of downtown, the West End, and English Bay.
This corridor in the PCU connects the lounge area with staff offices, examination rooms, and patients’ rooms. By day or night, it’s generally quiet: it’s not an eerie atmosphere, but it’s more like a respectful state of mind.
Next to the PCU on the 10th floor, there’s a section where the windows next to the elevators face west to English Bay. We watch the annual summer fireworks through the glass. There are subdued voices, interrupted by the sounds of mobile phones as people attempt to take pictures. There’s no shouting, no whooping, no clapping. Patients, family and friends, and various on- and off-shift hospital staff all gaze equally and quietly into the Salish Sea.
By this point, Dad had become a shell. His spirit had departed days earlier, and his body was hanging on. His eyes, open and unseeing. His mouth, open and sunken. His skin, smooth yet cool to the touch. He looked like a breathing ghost, but a part of him stuck around. And so, I stroked his cheek with the back of my fingers, and I held onto his arm, knowing fully he could no longer acknowledge me. Did I tell him all the things I wanted to say? No, but I had hoped my presence provided some comfort over this time. What I feared most was not the deterioration or the inevitable, but that he was trapped somewhere and unable to communicate. I whispered into his ear: “it’s okay, Dad. We’re all good. You can go.” I repeated this in both English and Toisan for several days.
From the lounge balcony, I made the picture of his final sunset. While he could no longer “see”, I hoped he could sense the shift between day and night. Hours later at 610am on the 9th of August 2014, Dad breathed his last and slipped quietly into the eternal sea. When I got the phone call, I felt some relief for him, that his ordeal was finally over. That respite was quickly replaced by the empty vacuum that comes with losing a parent. Even now, 3 years on, I still relive key moments of those 3 weeks in the hospital.
This post appears on fotoeins DOT com as http://wp.me/p1BIdT-akW. I made all of the pictures between 31 July and 8 August 2014. All pictures were at St. Paul’s Hospital except number 5 (corner of Bute St. and Davie St.) and number 10 (Law Courts building).
Some may recognize the similarity of my post title with “The X-Files” episode “The Field Where I Died” which is a personal favourite. Those familiar with the episode will also know this video excerpt with this music score.
Featured: Of the 150 people to become new Canadian citizens, 3 of the youngest Canadians cut into the cake for the cameras on Canada’s 150th birthday at the Citizenship Ceremony held inside the Vancouver Convention Centre.
For the 5th consecutive year, I’m out and about on the Canadian national holiday. 2017 is a special year with the sesquicentennial or 150 years as a nation. Over a “marathon” lasting 16 hours from about 5am to 9pm, I’m going from one part of Vancouver to another of the metropolitan area to photograph people and locations dressed up or covered in red; many events are happening on the city’s waterfront at Canada Place.
Here are 17 photographs for Canada Day, 1 July 2017.
Click on the arrow-window icon at the upper-left corner of the map below to display locations corresponding to the photographs.
Oh Canada …
• 4th edition – Canada Day 2016
• 3rd edition – Canada Day 2015
• 2nd edition – Canada Day 2014
• 1st edition – Canada Day 2013
• The National Anthem with the Heritage Horns, 12pm daily in Vancouver
• The National Flag, official since 1965
• Canadian symbols, including the national anthem
I made all of the photos on 1 July 2017. This post appears on Fotoeins Fotografie at fotoeins.com as http://wp.me/p1BIdT-a6a.
In Canada, National Aboriginal Day is held on the same day as (northern) summer solstice to celebrate language, culture, and tradition on the longest day of the year. In 1996, then Governor-General of Canada, Roméo LeBlanc, proclaimed June 21 as National Aboriginal Day since 1996, although the day is not a statutory holiday across the country. Events in the Vancouver area were also held the previous weekend as part of National Aboriginal Celebration, including an all-Saturday event at Canada Place. I highlight the performance by Pascale Goodrich-Black and La Vallée des Loups, also as part of the simultaneous Festival d’été francophone de Vancouver (Summer Francophone Festival of Vancouver).
The Canadian Prime Minister announced that as of 2018 the National Aboriginal Day will be modified to become National Indigenous Peoples Day to include First Nations, Inuit, and Métis indigenous peoples.
February 15 marked an important anniversary to which many Canadians still remain unaware.
On 15 February 1965, the present version of the Canadian national flag was raised for the first time outside Parliament Building in Ottawa. At the half-century mark, the flag shows no sign of aging, remaining fresh, new, and relevant to all Canadians who proudly wear the badge around the world. Canada marks its 150th anniversary as a nation in 2017.
More about the “red, white, & maple leaf” here.
I made the photo above in Dundarave Village in West Vancouver, BC, as part of my 16-hour photographic marathon on Canada Day 2014. This post appears on Fotoeins Fotopress at fotoeins.com as http://wp.me/p1BIdT-5Xs.