A Story from EveryStep Hospice: Clive Elliott

“You can help him go by telling him, ‘It’s alright if you have to go for a while.  I will still be here.’”

This was one of the wisest things that Clive Elliott had ever heard, spoken to him by the hospice care nurses from EveryStep Hospice who were taking care of his partner, Daniel, when he was dying.  Clive’s heart slowly broke as he saw Daniel lose his health.  He had been with Daniel every step of the way, never leaving his side until one day his friend, Lisa, invited Clive out for coffee.

Clive, riddled with guilt at the thought of leaving Daniel alone, almost declined Lisa’s offer.  But Daniel’s hospice care nurses insisted he go and they stayed with Daniel.  Before Clive left, he whispered the words that the hospice care nurses advised him to say.  By the time Clive arrived home again, Daniel had passed away. 

He had heard Clive.

Daniel’s death was due to complications from alcohol abuse.  When his doctors declared there were no further treatment options, EveryStep Hospice stepped in to provide Daniel hospice care, and they made it possible for him to pass away at home. 

“And suddenly two nurses arrived… [They] helped look after [Daniel] until his death.  They were remarkable because they knew what to do, they knew what to say, and passed no judgment.  They taught me a great deal about dying, just by example,” Clive said. 

Before Daniel passed away, Clive lived life as an actor and Drake University theater professor. 

Clive was born in Algorta, Spain about 81 years ago.  Algorta is a small Basque village near the ocean where his father worked at the time of his birth.   Clive began his schooling under the tutelage of a Swiss governess, who taught Clive his lessons in English, French, and Spanish.  He attended boys’ grammar school until he turned 17 in England. 

Clive hated attending school.  The one thing he enjoyed was acting in school plays because Clive “loved the opportunity to express [himself] outside of classwork.” 

These experiences made Clive realize that a career in acting was what he wanted to pursue.  While eating lunch with his parents as his graduation was fast approaching, his parents asked Clive what he wanted to do for a career.  Clive shocked them both when he responded that he wanted to pursue acting.

“Dad dropped his spoon into the soup and it splattered everywhere, including on the wall...  And my mother said, ‘Oh, but darling, you have to be good looking to go into acting.’”

Clive had simply replied, “’And if I’m not good looking, pray, whose fault is it?’”

Despite his parents’ initial shock over Clive’s chosen path, he attended the London Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and served in the army. Upon completing his training, Clive jumped from acting job to acting job, never out of work. 

Clive held many roles on television, but his true passion was for the theater. 

 “I didn’t think that [acting] was easy, but a challenge that I wanted to overcome.  It was a job. But a job that involved damn hard work, creativity, honesty, and interpreting what the author had written.”

In addition to his work as an actor, Clive also was a dancer.  He performed in four ballets with a professional ballet company in Des Moines.

After working as an actor for years, Clive was invited by the president of Drake University to become a theater professor.  Clive had performed and taken classes at Drake before and jumped at the opportunity to be able to share his knowledge and experience with aspiring actors.  He loved working at Drake because of his students, finding fulfillment in helping his students succeed both professionally and personally.

Clive found love with Daniel and wanted to get married, but it wasn’t possible at the time. “I didn’t want to get married if I wasn’t recognized [as married]. So, Daniel and I just decided that we were married,” Clive recalled. 

Clive spent many happy years sharing a life with Daniel until he passed away. 

Years later, Clive’s health deteriorated.  He lost the use of both of his legs, becoming dependent on others to take care of him.  When Clive was recommended to be put into hospice care, he didn’t have to think twice about who he wanted to receive his care from.  Without EveryStep Hospice, Clive does not know what he would have done.  His hospice care nurse, Brittany, was “a huge part of [Clive’s] life” and was his “lifeline.”

“Without Brittany, I would hurt a bit more than I do.  A lot more.  I find it very moving that there are people like Brittany who are willing to come and sit here, once or twice a week,” he said.

Clive values nothing more than a kind, understanding, compassionate, and nonjudgmental attitude in people.

“The trouble with announcing that you are gay is that people immediately turn on their ‘gay radar’ because they think they know what it’s like to talk to a gay man, which is entirely wrong because we are no different from anybody else,” he said.

He has found all of these qualities and more in Brittany and the other staff members at EveryStep Hospice.

“Everybody I have met from this establishment has been kindness itself. And kindness that is very deep seated, it isn’t putting on an act, it’s real.  And how often do you meet people with a real love for truth and kindness? Not often.”

This story is an edited excerpt of a piece written by Drake University student Jessica Grimmond.