Karen Gunn is intimately acquainted with death. She lost her mother when she was six years old.
“I lived my whole life with people being sad for me,” Gunn said.
Later, while working as an Intensive Care Unit (ICU) nurse, she nursed her second mother (stepmother) through cancer until she died. She said her personal and professional experiences taught her there is a better way to move through the stages of death, or as Gunn said, “living until we die.” This experience led to her creating A Long Kiss Goodbye.
Gunn offers a variety of services, such as helping families with pre- and post-mortem care and organizing culturally appropriate end-of-life rituals. She also coordinates home-based palliative care, car service, funeral home tours, and mini life-celebration documentaries to provide the family with memories of their loved ones.
Going through the process of losing a loved one is overwhelming for families. Gunn guides families through practical issues like meeting with doctors. She said most people forget what is said at these meetings, and she will chair a meeting with the family and keep notes.
Patients with a terminal diagnosis often want to pursue their bucket list. Depending on the state of their health, Gunn can help them fulfill their wishes. Gunn talks about one man who was diagnosed in British Columbia but wanted to die in Saskatchewan. He was transported by ambulance.
“Wouldn’t it be wonderful if he had been able to take a limo, accompanied by a respiratory therapist and nurse, with doctors on standby, on his last journey?” Gunn asked.
Another service Gunn offers is planning pre-death celebrations. Rather than (or in addition to) having a funeral, a pre-death celebration can include family and friends saying to their loved one all the things they would say at the funeral.
“It is sad, it does suck. Then, let’s make a plan to live until we die,” she said.
A Long Kiss Goodbye also has a gift shop. Gunn explained when people hear that a friend or family member has received a terminal diagnosis, they want to help but are often uncertain what to say or do. The products are based on her experiences working in ICU. Gift baskets include socks and toques for patients, brain game books, head scratchers, and items to boost people’s spirits, such as a rubber chicken. The store also offers care packages, chemo-kits, books, and what Gunn calls “common sense cards” which are more honest than typical cards. For children who have lost a parent, Gunn created a treasure chest for family and friends to share memories with the children.
Gunn’s services start at $50 per hour and Alberta Health covers additional services, such as palliative home care. Private insurance may cover alternative health care services.
Learn more by attending Death, Wine and Chocolate on March 3 from 7-10 p.m. Participants can expect wineglass painting, chocolate desserts, and discussion. Tickets are $35.
Karen Gunn, a former ICU nurse, in her newly-opened store, A Long Kiss Goodbye, on Fort Road. | Rebecca Lippiatt
A LONG KISS GOODBYE
Owner: Karen Gunn
12006 Fort Road
Hours: Services 24/7 By Phone
Store: Tues-Fri 10 am-6 pm
Sat 10 am-4 pm,
Closed Sun and Mon