She was a force to be reckoned with.
Our mom, Jerri Bennett, was smart, funny, loving, strong-willed and eternally optimistic. She was also a realist. She loved life and her family and was in relatively good health at the age of 83.
Mom left us in June and, while the loss is still very raw for our family, we know it’s important to share our story so others will realize the profound impact Victoria Hospital had on us at one of the most difficult times in our lives.
No one is ever prepared to lose their mom.
While we know the day will come, the reality is beyond comprehension. It became all too real for us in early June. My sister and I convinced Mom to go to Urgent Care at Victoria Hospital. She hadn’t been feeling well and was having difficulty getting around.
Within less than 24 hours, Mom had been admitted, tests had been run and the diagnosis shared with us. Mom had advanced colorectal cancer. Doctors had found a large tumor and had no way of knowing how invasive it had become. Weighing all of 76 pounds, mom was not strong enough for surgery. The doctor told us they could give Mom chemotherapy or radiation to give her comfort – but it would not change the outcome.
Mom declined treatment, telling us she had “lived a very full and happy life.”
With the exception of one cry we had together, she was in amazingly good spirits – even telling us with conviction, “I’m not done yet.” She made the best of things – got to know the nurses, enjoyed the view from her window, never complained.
On June 18th, Mom had her best day. When we tucked her in that night, she was in a great mood. She was upbeat about spending some time with family and perhaps returning to the assisted living centre to see her friends.
Sadly, that was not to be.
Early the next morning, Mom suffered an extensive stroke. The nurse who called us was just finishing her shift but said she would wait for me to arrive. She needed to prepare me for what I was about to see.
It’s difficult to describe the shock of seeing Mom – just a few hours after we’d left her in such good spirits. She’d fallen and had been taken for a CT scan. She was on a backboard, in a neck brace and was unable to speak. She was trying, but the words didn’t come. She was in an obvious state of distress.
I began to fall apart.
I remember the nurse hugging me and staying with me until my sister arrived. And, I recall Dr. Cavers sitting beside Mom, holding her hand, rubbing her arm and speaking to her quietly – trying to calm her. His kindness with her at that moment helped me find calm within myself.
From then on, Mom mostly slept. When she was aware and tried to speak, we couldn’t understand her. She couldn’t move her left side. The doctor told us she would not come back from the stroke and we discussed end of life care. Without a doubt, that was the most difficult thing for me even though I knew it was the best decision for her.
Friday was a very difficult day. Mom was on medication and sleeping. I sat with her, squeezed her hand and told her I loved her. As she had been unable to speak coherently since the stroke, there is no logical explanation for what happened next. She responded softly with, “I love you too, dear.”
In that moment, Mom was somehow able to clearly voice what was in her heart.
Geraldine “Jerri” Bennett, my wonderful loving mom died peacefully the following day.
To say that we were shaken to the core by Mom’s passing would be an understatement. She was our rock, the foundation of our family. But, we will never forget the compassionate care provided by the doctors and nurses. Not only did they put Mom first. They wrapped their arms and hearts around our entire family.
Smiling faces, warm hugs, comforting strong hands on my shoulders, soft voices, honesty, respect. Compassion at its best. Even a sign on mom’s door at the end, requesting privacy for the patient and family. I remember the flowers on the sign – cherry blossoms, symbolic of the fragility and beauty of life.
Please consider sending a special gift so Victoria Hospital can provide the same compassionate care to other patients and families like mine. We experienced first-hand why Victoria Hospital is known as the small hospital with a big heart.
P.S. As my sister, a nurse, so aptly put it for all of us, “What I saw during my visit was the beauty of an extremely caring team of professionals that provided Mom with the most dignified and respected end of life care and showed our family such heartfelt understanding and empathy.” Please donate today.