Besides working as honorary lay pastoral assistant at St. Cuthbert’s, Oakville, Brenda Garvey is multifaith chaplain at Trillium Health Centre in Mississauga, Ont., one of Canada’s most multicultural cities. The experience of supporting a 38-year-old friend with three children through terminal breast cancer inspired Garvey to take a Master of Divinity degree, followed by clinical pastoral education and a one-year residency as a Toronto hospital chaplain. Garvey is also a licensed lay anointer. In 2006, Trillium hired Garvey to assist patients with cancer and other terminal illnesses and their families.
“Death is as much a sacred miracle as birth,” says Garvey, who notes that when she anoints Anglican patients with the same oil with which they’ve been baptized, “they feel they have come full circle and been touched by God again.”
As Garvey sees it, her job is to help people of different faiths, or of no faith, have “a good death experience.” By offering comfort and meaning, Garvey helps them “to be present in each precious last moment.
“I walk in with Christ within me, looking at others with Christ within them, and try to help them find the peace within themselves,” she says.