(Submitted photo)

Special to the Sydenham Current

Our family’s story is really not so different from all the other stories of families faced with losing a loved one, but this was our love.

A beautiful mom, mother-in-law, wife, grandma and sister.

She grew up on a farm near Merlin and at the age of 10, lost her own Mom. As the eldest child, she stepped into a mothering role for her 4 younger siblings. She did it willingly and selflessly always putting their needs above her own.

At 18 she met her husband of 58 years, and together they raised 3 successful sons. She was the adored grandma of eight grandchildren and enjoyed spending as much time as possible with them.

Sadly, when she was 62, she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. That diagnosis terrified her of what lay ahead. For many years we were all fortunate that with medication, her illness was slow progressing but over time it took more and more of her memory and that of her former self. As a family, we loved her through it and in later years sought out extra care from local agencies like Meals on Wheels, Alzheimer’s society and a private Developmental Social worker.

Her husband remained her primary care giver until his sudden death at home in April of 2017, and then we found a wonderful place for her at Eden Villa, a long term care home where she was treasured. We were blessed to have excellence in care from her family physician and we trusted his guidance.

In July 2018, when what we thought was another random hospital stay and on a random Tuesday morning, the word Hospice was presented as an alternative to long-term care.

How could we have gotten here?

To say it came as a shock was an understatement because that same day a bed was available and a difficult decision had to be made. So, a conference call between three devastated and hurting brothers, united in love for their mother, led us to the Chatham-Kent Hospice.

Heavy hearted and afraid we arrived on their doorstep, the fear of what was ahead was overwhelming. Looking back, it’s hard to recall who it was that greeted us, but what comes to mind instantly is that it was a warm empathetic smile from one of the many kind hearts that work and volunteer there.

They felt our pain and welcomed us in.

Not only is it beautiful and immaculate, but there is a feeling there, and it’s peace and it’s healing, and there is a sound there and it’s quiet and it’s comforting.

From that moment on, we were made to feel like this was our home and we were encouraged treat it as such. We basically moved in and never left her side.

During the intake process we met with Dr. Mayo who possesses the rare gifts of complete understanding, genuine compassion and the ability to breakdown complex emotional events into simple understandable sequences so that we could grasp and cope. Over the course of our entire stay Dr. Mayo played an integral role in Mom’s care, the dignity in her death, and our family dynamics. He made it a point to get to know her life story and each one of our family.

He knew all of us by name and would seek us out, just to check in.

No matter how close your family is, there will be differences of opinion, personality conflicts words spoken and misinterpreted, but always there was a staff member or volunteer that was close at hand to offer perspective or whatever might be needed to bridge to understanding.

The Hospice team also accommodates faith, whatever that means to each person, and assists them in channeling it to trust in the process.

The staff and volunteers were like angelic hallway monitors ready to step in with a hug, a shoulder, an encouraging word, an offer of food, even offers to act as bouncers when well-meaning friends or relatives stopped by wanting part of our private moments.

One day in particular there speaks volumes about how death can be made beautiful.

It was a perfect warm summer night, by the waterfall in the courtyard. Our precious mom out there with us, bundled in her bed.

We played all kinds of music and right until morning we sang, we danced, we laughed, we cried but there was lots of laughter.

Everyone commenting the next day that they never had one of their special guests spend a whole night outside.

Best memory ever.

She drew her last breath on that same patio on a sunny afternoon a few days later.

I’m sure our family’s sentiments resonate with other families in that we like to think that the peace felt within the halls of the Hospice is really the spirits of our loved ones saying

Thank You for the grace and dignity they were given in their final days.

We are so grateful for the generous financial donations, the volunteers who give of themselves in love and time, and the dedicated compassionate staff and that our community is fortunate to have a place where death truly becomes a cherished moment in life.

Thank you!

– Shared by the Biskey family in memory of Janet Biskey.