JJ Sgambato remembers his mother, Janet Sgambato, as a compassionate, caring, and humorous woman. He said she was an amazing mother to him and his two cousins, Laura and Brenda whom she was very close. Janet lived in her hometown of Grimsby while she worked as a nurse at West Lincoln Memorial for over 40 years. She was admitted to McNally House Hospice in late 2021.
Family was essential to Janet, and nothing brought the family together quite like Christmastime.
“She was the queen of Christmas! It was her favourite time of the year,” JJ said. He said she would start decorating the house in mid-November with all her favourite decorations, but the Christmas tree, as per family tradition, went up the first Saturday of December.
Christmas of 2021 stood to look a bit different. However, McNally House stepped up and were able to help them share a final Christmas filled with memories and light.
“We decorated in her room (right away), watched Christmas movies, and listened to Christmas music. It was really special that McNally encouraged all that, especially with it being hers and our favourite time of the year,” JJ said.
Shara McLaren is McNally House’s Art Therapist. Shara works with residents and families through creative expression and is a part of a team that helps bring therapeutic comfort to the resident and their families during end-of-life care. Helping to continue residents’ family traditions, like Janet’s love of Christmas, helps to ease them.
“We’re trying to make sure that we balance the fear of illness with hope and trying to give them small pieces of the things that they used to do previously to coming into the house,” She said. “Just trying to maintain their traditions and create new meaning-making experiences for them.”
During Christmastime, McLaren works with families to make themed legacy ornaments. These pieces become treasured keepsakes for the family after their loved one has passed. She helped Janet, her family, and her friends create some of these memorable pieces.
JJ says he is grateful for the compassion he felt while his mother stayed at McNally, both for their family and for her.
“The end of a journey in hospice is rarely a happy one, but McNally House makes the final days, weeks, or months that much more bearable with their warmth, compassion, and how geared they are to not just the patient, but also their family and friends,” He said.