Residential Care – John’s Story

As part of the Four Elements for Hospice Grand Finale, John Fyfe-Millar spoke about about his mother’s experience at St. Joseph’s Hospice:

Good evening everyone and thank you so much for being here tonight. I am honored to support this wonderful organization of incredible staff and volunteers. We have been a supplier for years to St. Joseph’s Hospice, never thinking that the day would come when we would become their client.

John Fyfe-Millar at Four Elements for Hospice Grand Finale

My Mom, Nancy, was an incredible person. She lived in Blackfriars, above our office for over 25 years. Seeing your Mom every day, and I mean everyday can be considered a blessing, most of the time.

Mom was dynamic, opinionated, and believed everything she read in the London Free Press. She was a woman with an extensive bucket list and was very willing to not only share it, but have it fulfilled. Trips to Graceland, and maybe just a chance to wear Joseph’s Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat were just a few. All these dreams came true – and after 80 years old!

Nancy Millar with her daughter-in-law

Mom’s diagnosis was short. In August of 2017 she was diagnosed with lung and liver cancer. In her words “something’s gonna get ya”, but I still think she was caught off guard with the news. The option of treatment was rejected by Mom, who was turning 82. Partially because she was told how hard it would be on her physically, but I think, there was another reason.

My Mom was a very proper, proud and dignified woman. To her, qualities that cost nothing, but mean everything. But the reality is, when she got ill, she saw those qualities slipping through her fingers. As a result, as her illness progressed, she became distant, angry and fearful not only of me, but the entire family. 

When it came to reach out to Hospice, I did it differently than most. I contacted the communications department, my business contact. I love that compassion flows through the whole organization. We didn’t know when Mom was going, but St. Joseph’s Hospice was her choice, and the reality was, she was declining daily.

In November, two months after her diagnosis, she moved in. I remember seeing her that first night and she said to me, “this is it, Hospice will be my last home”.

Nancy Millar

But things changed for Mom in Hospice. She began to smile again, joke again. She became engaging, loving and the fear that took hold of her started to loosen its grip. All of a sudden, she was telling me what to do again, which she was very good at!  She seemed more comfortable, a direct result from the caring staff and volunteers.

Hospice became more than a home for my Mom, but our whole family. We started to store odd things there, slippers, magazines and maybe scotch. The slippers and magazines weren’t mine. There was a reason for that. Mom wanted to see us, and we were excited to see her. And that was good for everyone. You see, the fear and anxiety that came at the beginning of her illness had fueled feelings that divided our family.

The final month in Hospice brought our family back together, something we will never forget and will always be grateful for.

One of the most memorable nights was her birthday on November 29. With the whole family there, my nephew’s partner playing happy birthday on the piano, my sisters and I went into Mom’s room. The biggest smile came across her face, a smile that I hadn’t seen in a long time.

At such a difficult time, Hospice finds the best and brings it all together. The night Mom passed, my sisters Jenn and Sue along with their partners, all eight grandchildren, and my wife Nancy (not to be confused with my Mom Nancy) were there with me to see Mom off. She would have been very proud, she would have felt dignified.

Please be generous with your financial support tonight. Our family thanks you.