Jack Featherstone was battling COVID-19 and cancer when he told his son that he wanted to die in his home town.
In an opinion piece published by The Guardian, novelist and playwright Nigel Featherstone said his father, Jack, told him “I just want to go home and die in Braidwood” while he was ill in April 2022.
At 93, Jack was experiencing ongoing heart issues while also dealing with cancer and being sick in Canberra Hospital’s COVID-19 ward. The former eccentric artist and beloved community member of Braidwood, a small town in New South Wales, had called the town home for almost three decades.
Braidwood has a multi-purpose service with 37 aged care beds, a hospital wing with acute beds and an Emergency Department. Nigel explained his dad was lucky to secure an aged care bed and could return to his community.
About 67% of aged care facilities in regional Australia operate in deficit, making it hard to attract staff and keep them. These grim realities often see regional facilities close and their residents relocated to places that aren’t always close to home.
These statistics were a reality that impacted Braidwood and neighbouring towns, like Bombala, which saw its local aged care facility close.
The Bombala community retaliated by establishing a community-initiated, not-for-profit association to reopen the home as an assisted living facility like the one that allowed Jack to live the rest of his life in his hometown.
Nigel remembers the last time he saw his dad. They walked through the facility’s lush grounds and Jack showed Nigel his latest painting which captured a game of croquet he and other residents had enjoyed on a generously sized balcony.
“Nine days later, he died peacefully in his sleep, in a room overlooking paddocks so green they looked new – the way he had always painted them.”
Nigel’s latest novel, My Heart is a Little Wild Thing, is published by Ultimo Press and can be purchased on their website.