Jeanne Robinson was the wife of science fiction writer Spider Robinson. She was also a lay-ordained Soto Zen Buddhist monk. Jeanne, a dancer turned choreographer, died May 10 of cancer. There’s a touching narrative on the official Web site. Since Spider lives in Canada, there’s a detailed description of the (free) healthcare treatment of the terminally ill:
I cannot praise highly enough Dr. Paul Sugar and the entire staff of the Palliative Care Wing of North Vancouver’s Lion’s Gate Hospital. All nurses and nursing aides are heroes, but those who work exclusively with the dying are a breed apart (as are those who work Burn Units). These boddhisattvas*—over a dozen of them in the course of a week—were without exception willing to accede to absolutely any reasonable request by a family member, and any unreasonable request by a heavily drugged patient—with infinite patience, competence and compassion. They ignored regulations that were unreasonable, and enforced the important ones with firm kindness. Visiting hours there are 24-7. They actively encourage the playing of instruments and singing, raucous laughter, and the sound of crying babies. They are not stingy with the dilaudid. They helped Jeanne create a Buddhist altar on her windowsill. When your loved one enters endgame, they offer you blankets, pillows and a special chair which can effortlessly become a startlingly comfortable bed, so you can stay at the bedside all night, for as many nights as necessary. If you’d rather get a nearby hotel or B&B, they’ll find one for you and get you a rate.
Maybe this will shorthand it. One of the nurses assigned to Jeanne got chatting with her as she worked, learned a bit of Jeanne’s story. Then, completely on her own initiative, she went to one of the computers in the nurse’s station, Googled up both our websites, found and printed out the best photos of Jeanne dancing, solo and with her company, and also driving across America in a red, white and blue VW microbus with her first husband Daniel Corrigan, and winning a Hugo Award in Phoenix with me—and then she taped them all those photos up to the closet door beside Jeanne’s bed. As James Taylor sang, “Whatcha gonna do with folks like that?”