Pam was an amazing wife, mother, sister, daughter and friend. She was a quiet and generous soul who listened with intent and, when she had something to say, you knew it would be worthy of your attention. Pam was an incredible role model and teacher, and she selflessly put others (notably, her family) before all else. She spent many hours each week ensuring that all the needs of her daughters were taken care of, even after they went away to school.
Pam grew up in Ridgetown. While Pam and Scott were working at Hyland Seeds, a summertime romance blossomed into a 40-year marriage, two wonderful daughters, Kerry and Nikki, and countless wonderful memories.
Over the years, Pam enjoyed an eclectic selection of favourite things; raising purebred dogs, reading and her book club, live concerts with musical artists, ranging from Josh Groban to Pitbull; favourite sports, including the Toronto Blue Jays and Professional Bull Riding (PBR). She lived life doing what made her and her family happy.
Pam’s diagnosis was a shock to everyone. What began as headaches in late 2017, attributed to the stress of caring for her mother through her end of life, were investigated further in April 2018. In May 2018, Pam was diagnosed with Stage 4 bowel cancer that had spread throughout her body and was told that all treatment would be palliative. Her daughters immediately returned to Morpeth, and for as long as possible, the family cared for Pam at home.
In August 2018, when the at-home treatments were not sufficient in managing her pain, Pam decided that she would like to move into an available bed at the Chatham-Kent Hospice. Scott acknowledged that driving Pam to the Hospice was the most difficult thing he ever had to do. “Even as I was driving her to the Hospice, I wondered if we were doing the right thing,” shared Scott, “but once we arrived, I knew it was the right move. All of us felt a calm we hadn’t felt in several months.”
As a volunteer director on the Hospice Board, Scott was familiar with the facility and the care that the C-K Hospice offered. Scott shared, “However, when you become a hospice family, it changes your perspective completely. You truly cannot understand the full depth of the care provided until you’ve experienced it first-hand.”
Pam stayed at the C-K Hospice for 9 days. Her room was decorated with photographs of her beloved family, friends, dogs and flowers. She delighted in the amazing spa bathtub available to the residents and spent every afternoon enjoying the sunshine in a recliner chair by the waterfall. Her pain and comfort were expertly managed by the incredible doctors, nurses and personal support workers employed at Hospice.
While Pam was the official resident of the Hospice, the care and support provided extended far beyond her. The Hospice staff allowed her family to step away from the role of caregivers, and they were made to feel welcome and supported for every second of their stay. The family was able to sleep in Pam’s room, they were provided with all the amenities available, food, and the utmost support in some of the most horrible moments of Pam’s journey. The Hospice facilities allowed for a comfortable place to have family and friends around in the final days and hours of Pam’s life. In short, the Hospice felt like a home away from home.
While Pam was actively dying, at the family’s choice, they were accompanied and supported through the process by a Hospice nurse. Nikki reflected, “We were given time to say good-bye and, afterward, we shared in a farewell ceremony, which included lighting floating candles in the reflection pool near the waterfalls,” where they had enjoyed sitting with their mom.
“It was the gentlest way that the worst thing we could imagine could happen,” shared Kerry.
Since Pam passed away, several family members have taken advantage of the grief and bereavement services offered at Chatham-Kent Hospice. “As a director I believed that the supportive care programs were important, but after utilizing the services, I realized that they are a critical part of the journey,” shared Scott.
“We are forever grateful for the compassionate care our family received from everyone at Chatham-Kent Hospice. We are extremely fortunate to have these services in our community and encourage anyone who is dealing with end of life to seek out their support.”
Shared in memory of Pam McKinlay by her family— Scott, Nikki & Kerry.