Close your eyes and imagine a warm and welcoming place. Somewhere beautiful, spacious, clean, and comfortable. A caring place of unconditional kindness and compassion. Somewhere with really great soup. Now imagine that this is where you get to go during the most difficult and challenging time of your life.
In March of 2017 we received the phone call that no one wants to get. “We found a tumor”. Life was never the same again for Dad and our family. Surgery revealed a glioblastoma tumour at the back of Dad’s brain. The prognosis was not good. 12 months. 18 months if he’s lucky. But the real kicker for Dad was that his driver’s license was taken away which was very frustrating for a man who was always active.
Dad loved being outside, hunting and fishing, four-wheeling, tinkering in the garage, fixing lawnmowers, building bird houses, feeding the squirrels, biking, walking or just cutting the grass (most of which he did barefoot and topless).
My dad was humorous, out-spoken, always so helpful to his kids, his grandchildren and his neighbours. Whenever there was a family reunion you could always hear his contagious laughter bellowing from every direction.
Bob Hoskins was a Chatham-Kent man through and through. He was born in Chatham, attended St. Ursula’s Elementary and McGregor High School where he played his beloved hockey. When Bob met Gloria they established their family here. In fact, his three brothers and 1 sister also set down roots in Chatham-Kent. Our semi-annual Hoskins family reunions can number up to 60!
When his kids were young, Bob enjoyed 15 years of coaching Chatham minor hockey, baseball and ringette. He worked for the Department of Highways in Chatham for 33 years, making & installing the signs you see on the highway. When the government outsourced his department, he found himself retired at the young age of 49 and a half. So, Dad took to the golf course, but not to play. He tried golfing once and nearly took someone’s head off, so for the safety of the community, he stuck to cutting the grass and maintaining the greens at Country View Golf Course for 10 years.
Although Dad was given the standard prognosis of 12-18 months, he far surpassed their expectations living almost 6 and a half years!
Often, when a terminal diagnosis is given, a bucket list will quickly materialize of all the things to be done before dying. For Dad, no such list arose. No need to visit the Grand Canyon, run a marathon and buy a boat. The only thing he wanted was more time to spend with his grandkids. Specifically, more time to watch his grand kids play sports. He was already living his best life watching them play basketball and his beloved hockey. He even tried to enjoy watching volleyball, even though he didn’t understand it.
Dad may not have had a bucket list, but we did. Our children were young, and we wanted them to have some good memories with their Grampa. Within a couple weeks of his original surgery, we took him to the Hockey Hall of Fame. The following March, we took him to Cuba (with the doctor’s permission). We were not expecting to get an extra 5 years with Dad, but we continued to make memories, going on various vacations and celebrating family milestones.
6 and a half years with glioblastoma has its ups and downs. Dad endured seizures, falls, numbness on his left side, many visits to the ER and hospital stays, personality changes, CT scans, MRIs, bloodwork, two surgeries, and learning how to walk and feed himself again after the 2nd surgery. It truly was quite a rollercoaster ride.
In March of this year, we found out the original tumour awoke from its slumber and started growing. At this point, after the tough recovery from November’s surgery, Dad was not up for any more treatments. This began our journey towards Hospice.
We knew of Hospice. We knew it was an important service in the community. We donated to Hospice fundraisers, but we didn’t have any firsthand experience with it until April of this year. Our home nurse suggested that we go for a tour of Chatham-Kent Hospice in case it became something Dad needed. After the tour, Dad declared that it was too fancy for him. We decided to fill out the paperwork anyway in case we needed it, and it’s a good thing we did, because the decision to do so came overnight.
Dad’s wish was to remain at home. We managed this for April and May, but as things quickly declined, there came a point when we could no longer care for him at home. He was no longer able to help get himself out of bed in the morning, his mobility was disappearing, and his pain was now intolerable. We knew it was time. We had Bridget’s card from the tour, so we called her to ask what to do. She told us there was a bed available. Since our paperwork was already completed, we were able to move him into Hospice on June 2nd.
As you approach Chatham-Kent Hospice you can’t help but notice the beautiful landscaping and warm, welcoming greeting you get from the volunteer at the desk. Over time, many got to know us by name which made it easier to walk through those doors every. The flowers in the entrance donated by local florists were always eye-catching and breathtaking. As you round the corner, the same question always came to mind “I wonder what the soup is today?” It’s surprising how comforting a bowl of soup can be. But more than that, soup became something else to talk about. Something to take your mind off what was going on. Something to look forward to. The volunteers in the kitchen were always hard at work making the homemade soup and fresh baked goods as well as preparing meals. Often, this involved customizations depending on individual needs. At any time, day or night, special requests can be made. One time Dad requested chocolate pudding at 3am and his request was granted. Dad basically stopped eating, but when he wanted bacon, toast and 2 eggs over easy, he got it. We were grateful for the weekly barbeques, as well as that soup and those baked goods as they allowed us to have lunch on site and not have to worry about going home to cook. It was so nice to have our needs met as well as Dad’s. We weren’t expecting that.
When Dad entered Hospice, his pain was off the charts. The doctor told him, “Give me 3 days and I’ll have your pain under control. Dad responded, “No”. He didn’t think that was possible. However, just as promised, in 3 days his pain was manageable. No longer would Mom have to manage his medications. This was taken off her plate the very first day and was a great relief.
Dad’s room was so spacious and accommodating for him and his visitors. There was plenty of room to walk around and comfy chair and couch for sitting. The lift above the bed allowed for ease of re-positioning or transfer in and out of bed. The difference here was that it tucked up into the ceiling when not in use which minimized the medical appearance of the room. You might think the most impressive feature of the room was the big screen tv, fireplace, or huge bathroom, but actually, it was the adjustable cuddle bed <cuddle bed pics>, which we took full advantage of. With the click of a button, the bed could be expanded to Queen-size for those moments you wanted to lay down with your loved one.
Some of the things that gave us peace of mind were the personal buzzer that Dad could wear so it wouldn’t get lost, as well as the room monitor that went to the nurse’s station, so Dad could just call out and they would hear him. The nurses made it clear to Mom that she could call in at any time, so she did. Twice a day. First thing in the morning and just before she went to bed. This allowed her to get a good night’s sleep, which is something she was missing while caring for Dad at home. We often had other staff members come check on us and give us time to vent to them. They genuinely cared about our well-being and listened to us and let us have an outlet while we were there. They also had someone there help me with paperwork for my care and compassionate leave.
It’s so impressive how much thought went into the design of the building. You can even take your bed outside! Dad was able to experience this on one occasion and we often saw other families enjoying the fresh air of the courtyard together. We found the waterfall very relaxing and calming and would often go sit there for some quiet alone time.
Each nurse played such a huge part in our hospice journey. They each brought their own individual approach when providing care for my Dad, as well as educating us on what he was experiencing and what we could expect. Dad especially enjoyed the nurses keeping him clean as they allowed him to flirt and tease with them. Because of Dad’s brain tumour, he was often leaning off to the right when sitting in bed. When Lola would see him like this, she’d say “Come on Cock-eyed Bob, lets get you straightened out!” and Dad would get the biggest laugh out of that. It was always good to hear Dad laugh.
Room decoration was encouraged. In no time, Dad’s room became a Toronto Maple Leaf Haven. This caught the eye of one of the volunteers, Mike, who also used to play hockey. Dad and Mike exchanged hockey stories while Dad enjoyed Mike’s strawberry smoothies. It was often the only thing he wanted to eat. Mike went above and beyond when he arranged to have Toronto Maple Leaf’s defenseman, TJ Brodie come visit Dad in his Hospice room. It was a joyous occasion that lifted the spirits of Dad and all our family who were present. It was definitely a highlight of our Hospice journey that re-energized us to continue the path we were on.
When Dad passed, we were encouraged that we didn’t need to rush. We were allowed to spend all the time we needed with him. We had a prayer service in his room with him and we were able to walk him out as a family and say our goodbyes before the funeral home took him to prepare him for the visitations. The family then gathered in the courtyard for a lovely candle lighting. <candle1, candle2> Each grandchild was given the opportunity to say a few words if they wanted, then lower a floating candle into the waterfall pond. It was such a peaceful way to end our Hospice journey. Everyone should die with the level of dignity we saw given to Dad.
Hospice felt like a home away from home. We were able to be ourselves, spend all the quality time we needed with dad and not have to worry about anything else. Everything was taken care of by all the staff and volunteers. We trusted them, we listened to them, they cared for Dad with the utmost respect. They cared for us, and I knew this because on most days, I felt like we were the only people there. Their care was that well done. We can honestly say we miss everyone there and the relationships that were built around my Dad. It’s a feeling my family and I will never ever forget. The impact that Hospice left on our family will be a positive memory that ended a very long journey. There are not enough words to tell our Hospice story and the immense appreciation we have for such an incredible warm, compassionate place.
-Shared by Sue and the Hoskins Family in loving memory of Bob