Staying young by supporting end

COMMUNITY. Former judge Gabriel Lassonde traded ski slopes and golf courses to spend part of his retirement at the Magog hospital. And it is not his 81 years that will prevent him from flourishing by accompanying patients at the end of life.

“I was no longer good enough to play sports during my retirement, so I turned to volunteering,” he says with humor.

His choice turned to L’Envolée, a group that has accompanied palliative care patients since 1990. Mr. Lassonde goes to the hospital center once a week to accompany sick people who will soon die. He also supports grieving family members.

“It’s very rewarding for me, because we offer quality time, especially to those who suffer from isolation and loneliness,” says Mr. Lassonde. This volunteering helps me a lot personally, but we help the sick a lot to soften their end of life.”

“It’s more difficult when people die at 40”

Mr. Lassonde admits that discussions with patients are sometimes very sad. He also cries with the sick, but above all he provides an attentive and empathetic ear. “It’s more difficult when people die at 40,” he concedes.

“We sometimes go through small bereavements, he testifies. We sometimes expect to see someone again, but we learn when we arrive at the hospital that he died the day before. We must be able to manage these situations and be able to provide support to the patient who arrives in palliative care, who also risks dying in a few days or barely a few weeks.”

“Despite these emotions, I always look forward to coming to see my patients. We are living in very rewarding times.”

The treasurer of L’Envolée, Lise Messier, appreciates the authenticity that is always there in these last moments. “People are always real at the end of life, she continues. We offer our support to single people, but we remain in the background when families are present.

Ms. Messier admits that the arrival of assisted dying has changed things a bit. Volunteers have adjusted to this new reality, respecting all patient choices, regardless of religion or spirituality.


The labor shortage also affects the community sector. L’Envolée is no exception to the rule with a significant drop in volunteers since the health crisis. From 50 people, the group has recently dropped by half with volunteers offering varying hours. This resource will not be able to respond to all support requests without increasing the number of volunteers. We want to cover nights and weekends more easily, in addition to extending support to other areas of the hospital.

Ms. Messier particularly invites men to join the group, because Mr. Lassonde is the only active representative of the male sex. “It’s important to have a balance to satisfy all our patients,” she warns.

But it’s not given to everyone to become a volunteer at L’Envolée. Verification of criminal records, selection interview and training are on the program. You must have good physical and psychological health to avoid possible relapses.

The main qualities required are listening, respect, empathy, discretion and openness to people. Volunteers can notably help a patient eat and drink, read to him or listen to music with him. They also offer moments of respite to families, while offering them an attentive and reassuring presence.

Their mandate is to make the Essential Palliative Care Unit welcoming by distributing coffee and snacks. Thanks to them and the caring employees, the unit has a calm and soothing atmosphere in order to create the best possible conditions to get through this ordeal of death.

In addition, note that L’Envolée is organizing a conference-training with Véronique Jaccard, entitled “Taking care of yourself”, on Saturday December 17 at 10 a.m. Lunch and coffee will be served from 8:45 a.m. in the Salle du Bonheur at the Day Centre.

Donations possible on site, at the two funeral homes in Magog and online at

Additional information or to become a volunteer at 819-843-3381, ext. 2462

Staying young by supporting end-of-life patients – Le Reflet du Lac