A Winnipeg Spiritual Health Practitioner (AKA Chaplain) has recently written a moving song about people who die in a hospital bed alone.
Gord Johnson is familiar with seeing people pass away, but it takes a new toll when anyone dies without someone nearby.
The song "Eleanor May" was birthed from this idea, and in light of the pandemic and people not being able to visit their loved ones in the hospital, it is more relevant than ever.
"Last fall I just got this line in my head and it came out as the first chorus," says Johnson.
However, as with many songwriters, it initially sat on the backburner.
"Then came COVID, and the amount of people in the hospital who were dying and unable to have visitors became way more acute. The early days [of COVID] were strange. The halls were empty, there was a tension in the air waiting for the big bang, which never happened."
At that point, Johnson felt he needed to finish this song. He says, "So many people were in there and could not have visitors."
The name Eleanor May is simply made up, however, it represents all those dying in hospital beds alone, rather than just one woman.
"When people are going through death in a long enduring wait, that's when I would be more involved," he says.
Johnson's been a Spiritual Health Practitioner at the Health Science Centre for ten years and it is his second career.
Previously he was a singer/songwriter for decades. He's written songs used by artists like Steve Bell, Jon Buller, and even Fresh IE.
When it comes to his work in the hospital, caring for those who are often facing the hardest situation of their lives, he considers it "a calling".
"Sometimes I am the last person standing. Sometimes a person is dying without anyone around and I will just simply go in and hold their hand."
As to how it feels being with people who are dying with no one else around, Johnson says, "I would say it's reciprocal. When I'm involved with a person dying, to witness the last breath which is different from any other breath, and walk away from that room, I always have an incredible sense of privilege that I get to do this."
The song is available on YouTube, and has also been made into a podcast by Jamie Howison, the founding pastoral leader of Saint Benedict's Table in Winnipeg.