Mom was dynamic, opinionated, and believed everything she read in the London Free Press. She was a woman with an extensive bucket list and was very willing to share it, and have it fulfilled. Trips to Graceland, and maybe just a chance to wear Joseph’s Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat were just a few. All these dreams came true – and after 80 years old!
Mom’s diagnosis was short. In August of 2017 she was diagnosed with lung and liver cancer. In her words “something’s gonna get ya”, but I still think she was surprised to get the news. The option of treatment was rejected by Mom, who was turning 82. Partially because she was told how hard it would be on her physically, but I think, there was another reason.
My Mom was a very proper, proud and dignified woman. Qualities she held in the highest regard. But the reality is, when she got ill, she saw those qualities slipping through her fingers. As a result, as her illness progressed, she became distant, angry and fearful not only of me, but the entire family.
When it came to reach out to St. Joseph’s Hospice, I did it differently than most. I contacted Rochelle, the communications specialist, and my business contact. I love that compassion flows through the whole organization. We didn’t know when Mom was going, but the reality was she was declining daily. In November, two months after her diagnosis, she moved in. I remember seeing her that first night and she said to me, “this is it, I’m not coming out of here”.
But things changed for Mom in Hospice. She began to smile again, joke again. She became engaging, loving and the fear that took hold of her started to loosen its grip. All of a sudden, she was telling me what to do again, which she was very good at! She seemed more comfortable, dignified, a direct result from the caring staff and volunteers.
Hospice became an extension of our family’s homes. We started to store odd things there, slippers, books and maybe scotch. There was a reason for that. Mom wanted to see us, and we were excited to see her. And that was good for everyone. You see, the fear and anxiety that came at the beginning of her illness fueled feelings that divided our family. The final month in Hospice brought our family back together, something we will never forget and will always be grateful for.
One of the most memorable nights was her birthday on November 29. With the whole family there, my nephew’s partner playing happy birthday on the piano, my sisters and I went into Mom’s room. The biggest smile came across her face. You couldn’t have asked for anything more.
At such a difficult time, Hospice finds the best and brings it all together. The night Mom passed, my sisters Jenn and Sue along with their partners, all eight grandchildren, and my wife Nancy were there with me to see Mom off. She would have been very proud, she would have felt dignified.
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