“McNally House Hospice was like a big hug that stayed with us until the end.”

“Death is a difficult journey we must all take, but McNally House Hospice showed my family that it can be done beautifully,” explains Beth Carravagio of Beamsville.

Over the last two and a half years Beth, her siblings Gordon, Sandra, Kenneth, and their families, have dealt with the loss of their much loved parents, Joan and Murray Edmondson. The Edmondson’s were a story book couple. Through 55 years of marriage they worked hard to raise their family, which grew to include ten grandchildren (one granddaughter predeceased) and two step-grandchildren.

The Edmondson’s enjoyed a much deserved retirement in the Niagara area. But things changed for Joan and Murray when Joan was diagnosed with lung cancer.

As her illness became too much, Joan came to McNally House to live out the few remaining days of her life. “McNally House welcomed us with open arms. The staff gave us the time and understanding we needed to cope with what was happening to our family,” states Beth.  It was April, and from the comfort of her suite at McNally House, Joan and her family sat in the sunshine and watched the first signs of spring emerge before they would have to say goodbye.  This beauty and calmness provided the peace of mind the Edmondson family needed to make saying goodbye to their Mother that much easier.

Following Joan’s death, Murray a fiercely independent and stoic man, continued on and took up the household duties that Joan so lovingly did throughout their marriage. Although Murray was a man of great spirit and never one to ask for help, his children saw him start to struggle with the effects of pulmonary fibrosis.  Although reluctant at first to go to McNally, Murray’s children knew the time had come.  Once settled at McNally House, the relief for Murray was immense and he even began to rebound.  He regained his appetite to the delight of the volunteers who loved to cater to his every request, and without the day to day worries and burdens of looking after himself he began to catch up on his sleep. Under the excellent care of the staff and volunteers at McNally, Murray’s family were comforted by the return of his gentle smile and the sparkle in his eyes.

Although Murray would not recover from his illness, at McNally he was able to live his last days to the fullest. It also provided the space for his entire family to gather and spend time with him.  “At times there were up to eighteen of us in his room!” says Beth.  But most important, explains Beth, that “when we visited Dad and Mom at McNally, we were able to just spend time with them and not worry about the duties and responsibilities of being caregivers.  We were able to just ‘be’ with them.”

In his final hours the Edmondson family with support of McNally volunteers said good bye to their cherished father. “The staff and volunteers at McNally are truly special – they are like nothing I have ever encountered in any care facility” says Beth, who is also a nurse.  “Intuitively they know exactly what to say and do to provide the comfort you need at any given moment.” Members of Beth’s family also benefited from the onsite bereavement services at McNally to help them deal with the passing of a wonderful father and grandfather.

“At McNally we felt a shared understanding and connection with other families experiencing the same things as us,” explains Beth, “and McNally provided an intimate setting where we really got to know the staff and volunteers, so you never had that sense of being alone in what you were dealing with.”

Even after her parents’ stay at McNally, Beth has been touched by the ongoing support she has received from the hospice staff and volunteers. “My husband Rob and I were out one night for dinner months after Dad had passed, and a volunteer had recognized me from our time at McNally. She came over and gave me a big hug and asked me how I was doing.  It brought tears to my eyes that my Dad and my family would still be remembered in this way,” recalls Beth.

McNally House’s mission is to bring compassionate care to families like the Edmondson’s. McNally provides free of charge, 24-hour specialized palliative care to people living with a terminal illness, as well as those in their life circle.