If there’s one thing that working with people who are nearing the end of life or grieving the loss of a loved one has taught Beth Kish, it’s to cherish every moment with family and others you care about.
With that in mind, Kish – who has been at the helm of the Peace Arch Hospice Society (PAHS) since June 2014 – announced this week she is retiring.
“I’ve been thinking about it for a while, for a couple months now,” Kish said Wednesday (Aug. 26).
“My son got married in July and my daughter gets married in June, so fingers crossed we’ll have grandchildren soon. You just look at life and you think, well, you want to enjoy it.”
An added bonus is feeling confident that the society is in a good place.
“It’s running really well, we’ve got a great team,” she said.
Much has happened over Kish’s years at the society’s helm – including a quest to relocate that sparked a major funding campaign: $2.1 million towards construction of the society’s supportive care centre.
Located at 15435 16A Ave., the centre opened in May 2018, housing the society’s administrative offices, volunteer training program and grief support programs and services.
“It was a big deal to actually make the commitment to raise the money to build this new building and to move,” Kish said. “That was a big job to do that. I’m really, really pleased with it.”
Kish, who is also a director on the board of the South Surrey & White Rock Chamber of Commerce and sits on the City of White Rock’s seniors advisory committee, said difficulties over the years, fortunately, have been few – although the pandemic has taken a financial toll – but she credits that to the nature of hospice and other non-profits.
“You’re always sort of surrounded by the best of the best,” she said. “Anybody that’s involved in hospice… are reminded every day to be grateful and to be thankful and just enjoy the moments.
“Those are the enlightened people you deal with every day.”
Kish’s first introduction to hospice was as a donor, while living in Okotoks, Alta. Her involvement with the Foothills Country Hospice Society grew to the point that she was asked to take the role of its executive director.
Her connection to White Rock was through her husband, Robert, who was born and raised in the seaside city.
Kish said the pandemic forced PAHS to pivot how it operates, including offering counselling over the phone or via Zoom, but it has since restarted all of its groups.
“We’re getting back up,” she said.
She described hospice work as an honour.
“The patients and clients, you see a lot of sorrow and a lot of sadness, but you really see a lot of joy and coming together and peace,” Kish said.
“We’re all going to be faced with end of life. To be allowed to be part of somebody’s journey is really an honour and a privilege.
“When it weighs heavier on you… you really just count your blessings. You really just be grateful and it pulls you out of it.”
Kish plans to wrap up at the society by the end of October, but said she will stick around beyond that if it takes longer to find her successor – and plans to continue supporting it even after she has retired.
She is also pleased to be representing hospice as a nominee for the upcoming Surrey Board of Trade’s Women in Business Award, in the non-profit category.
“I feel really good about where the society is,” Kish added. “I feel really proud about what has happened over the past seven years while I’ve been here and feel like I’m leaving it in a really good situation.”