Hospice Family Story – The Ross Family

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by ARCH Hospice

This past September brought a wonderful set of visitors to ARCH Hospice when the gracious Ross family stepped through our doors. It was a bittersweet day for the family of Robert (‘Bob’) Ross as September 14, 2015 marked the one-year anniversary of this fine gentleman’s passing. Initially, Bob’s wife Helen thought it would be a difficult journey to make but felt it was important to be at Bob’s final home on this first anniversary. A year later, the family is comfortable sharing the story of their journey at ARCH Hospice.

The family happily discovered our recent conversation brought back the many positive memories they shared with Bob during his final days.  One of son John’s first impressions of ARCH Hospice was that it was so much more than a health care facility: “As soon as we arrived we thought: ‘it looks like a home!’”

Bob Ross, remembered for his kindness and patience, began his working career as a truck driver for Rooney and Mervyn Wholesale. A hardworking man, Bob quickly demonstrated his prowess and was offered a position as a travelling salesman. For many that knew Bob, his progression into the sales field was perfect. Although a private man, he was a natural conversationalist who could crack jokes like no other.

Undergoing a second open-heart surgery only 9 years ago, Bob’s health never completely recovered. It was utterly devastating when the Ross family learned that ARCHBob’s diagnosis was palliative in 2014.  Our Intake Coordinator reassured the family that they were doing the best for Bob under the circumstances. After being in the hospital for only one week, the family made the decision to bring Bob to ARCH. It was a difficult decision but Bob’s wife Helen found comfort in knowing that her husband would be comfortable and well cared-for at our hospice. The support she and her family received during Bob’s end-of-life transition also helped to make the journey more manageable for all of them. As Helen recalls in her recent sit-down with our Supportive Care Coordinator, “It’s not just the patient you’re looking after, it’s the whole family”.  The Ross family was able to join our regular Meditation for Relaxation sessions which helped to ease some of the anxiety and tension.  The family were also grateful for the privacy afforded to them. Each family member had the opportunity to spend “alone” time with Bob, such an important part of closure of family and resident alike.

Despite the circumstances, Bob made the most of his time at ARCH. His wit never failed him as he kept the nursing staff laughing and smiling; his charm worked wonders as he quickly became a stealer of many hearts here at the hospice. The man knew how to work a room!

Helen appreciated the every-day conversations she’d have with the volunteers: “Your volunteers are wonderful” she recalls. She was thankful for how attentive, kind, and respectful they were of her family’s needs. The lead palliative care physician, Dr. Buehner, and the nursing staff that cared for her husband were also spoken of fondly by the Ross family. John marveled that there was “nothing you would ask for that wouldn’t happen here… it was always about making him comfortable”.

Being the music lover that he was, having played in the pipe band when he was younger, Bob was especially touched when one of our volunteers arranged to play the bagpipes outside of Bob’s window. Another fond memory the Ross family shared with us centered around an unsual premise: a hamburger. On one of the many nights Helen was at her husband’s beside, she had a craving for a burger. Making the drive to A&W, Helen picked herself up a hamburger and ventured back to her husband’s bedside. When she returned, Bob mentioned that he would have loved a burger as well. Helen mentioned it to one of the care staff who promptly managed to get Bob his very own (and delicious) hamburger. For our staff, this simple gesture is just one of the things we do here to ensure our residents are as happy as possible but to the Ross family it meant so much more.

The love that Helen continues to have for her husband is beautifully heartwarming. As she reminisced about some of the moments they shared together over their 62 years of marriage, her affection towards her late husband remains genuine and enduring… and the feeling was mutual. Even during his final days, the love that Bob had for his wife was undeniable. On September 14, 2014 Helen forced herself, for the first time, to leave her husband’s bedside and it was that night that Bob left for the heavens, seemingly waiting to spare the love of his life the heartache of saying goodbye for the last time. John remembers arriving at ARCH the morning after his father had passed and was met with a feeling of peacefulness in his father’s room.

All of us at ARCH Hospice are grateful to have served the wonderful Ross family and we are especially happy to see the personal growth in their healing journey.  We welcome them back at any time to drop in for great conversation, reminiscences, and of course, one of Tom’s delicious bowls of soup.  What an honour and privilege to serve such a fine gentleman and his lovely family!  Thank you to the Ross family for the wonderful memories.