Born in Windsor just before the depression, dad was the second of four boys. During World War II he enlisted in the Navy. While deployed he maintained correspondence with his sweetheart, our mother, Betty, whom he married after his honourable discharge. They had four children- two daughters and two sons- and were married for 44 years until mom’s passing.
He was a strong supporter of his community and a hard worker. He was a charter member of the Chatham Good Fellows, named Mr. Good Fellow in 1969, all while working and eventually owning his own dairy. He had ambition and stamina that was nothing short of amazing; especially considering he was declared legally blind some 20 years ago.
He made the best of each day and always kept busy. In his words, “a daily accomplishment helps you sleep good at night”.
Without question he enjoyed life more than most. He would often say he was blessed many times over.
Dad’s end of life journey began in November of 2017 when he was diagnosed with bladder cancer. The following November he had a heart valve replacement. After Dad was discharged from the hospital he was admitted to a respite care facility in Chatham.
On a cold November morning I walked quietly into his room and he was awake. He said to me firmly, “Rob, I am dying.” I responded that “I am, too, everyone is dying every day we grow older.” Continuing, he stated that his bladder cancer had progressed and was invading his body. He humbly said, “I know my body very well. I need to go to one of those dying houses . . .”
So I replied, “You mean a Hospice?”
He said, “I was awake all night trying to remember the name “hospice”. Then he smiled and said to me, “I think the mind’s slipping just a bit to boot.” We both laughed and hugged. He was very matter-of-fact, not shedding a tear. Not so for me!
Later that very afternoon we were greeted at the front doors of the Chatham-Kent Hospice by a smiling staff member, welcoming Dad to his very last five-star plus resort, ready to assist him -and our family- with this final journey of his 93-year life.
Much to our surprise, Dad seemed very comfortable and at ease in the beautiful surroundings and with the entire process of being taken to his room by the caring staff. Once the staff left us alone in his room, he said, “I am in the very best place I could ever wish for. I have no fear.”
I could talk for hours on end about the incredible care and devotion our father received in those last 30 days from the entire Hospice staff – from the medical staff, caregivers and volunteers. Respect was shown for not only our father, but for all our family members. We were made to feel welcome. We were allowed to come and go at any time, and we were able to spend the night with dad in his room so he was never alone. Although staff members regularly came by to check on us, they were not intrusive.
Never have we experienced such respect for life. Dad was such a stickler for hygiene and was a very proud dresser. After his passing he was bathed and fully dressed, right down to his socks and shoes . . . as he would have wanted. Although many family members were present when dad passed away, we were given all the personal time we needed to say our good-byes and wait with him for other friends and family to arrive. At no time did we feel rushed. A final ceremony was held with friends and family to send off dad’s spirit before having to send off his body.
I must humbly admit that prior to the building of the Hospice, I, as a business owner and resident of Chatham, had been asked to donate to the Hospice. Due to my ignorance of what an incredible service a hospice provides, I declined to offer a donation. As I now know what an amazing place this is, and what incredible people work and donate their time and effort, that is no longer the case.
In witnessing first-hand the devotion that takes place in the Chatham-Kent Hospice from its volunteers to the professional staff, on behalf of my family, I truly wish to extend our heart-felt thanks. I hope, through generous donations from our community, our Hospice will be there for all those who will be facing this time of their lives and those of their loved ones for many, many years to come.