A Bear For Lyla

February 2024

Harold and Jackqueline (Jackie) Whitson had a love story that crossed more than 55 years of their lives. That story started with a blind date, then Harold quickly arranged a second date at a club in London, Ontario. “When we were ‘carded’ by the security staff, I was amazed to find that I shared the exact same birthday, and birth year, with this sweet girl I had just met,” laughs Harold.

They shared their love with their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and over the years they created memories to last a lifetime. In July of 2022, their lives were immeasurably changed when Jackie was diagnosed with metastatic lung cancer.

“Jackie was determined to stay at home, and I promised her that I would make sure that her wishes were honoured,” says Harold. “We tried to make every day a good day.”

Unfortunately, even with amazing support and assistance from their family and the Hospice team, being at home became more and more difficult for this couple to manage. “We had talked about going into the Hospice Residence, but Jackie told me she didn’t want to go. She said ‘It’s where you go to die.’” So, when we finally made the decision to move to Hospice in late December, there was a mixture of relief and anxiety.

“All of that anxiety went away as soon as we arrived at Hospice,” says Harold. “By the time I parked the truck after handing Jackie into the care of the nurses at the Residence, she was settled in her bed in Room 11, safe and comfortable. I could finally stop being her full-time caregiver, cook, and ‘keeper’ of her medications. I felt like an enormous weight was lifted, I could go back to being her loving husband!” Jackie admitted to Harold that she was so glad to be there, and wished she had made the decision earlier. Jackie passed away in the gentle care of our Hospice in January of 2023.

Jackie and Harold have a wonderfully large and very close family, but Jackie always had a very unique bond with their only granddaughter, Lyla. “Lyla is just nine years old, but she and Jackie were so close and always together. Lyla is the youngest of our grandchildren, and as the only girl, had very special status with her Mimi,” explains Harold.

Lyla visited Jackie throughout her stay at Hospice, and was especially delighted when she was given one of the Hospice signature Burden Bears to keep. “She sleeps with that bear every night, and tells me that it always reminds her of her Mimi,” says Harold.

When he mentioned to Lyla that he was going back to Hospice after Jackie passed away to drop off some information for them, she asked him to deliver a special package to the team at the Residence. She had hand-crafted a lovely custom-made envelope and origami-folded note, in her favourite shade of blue, thanking the Hospice team for taking care of her Mimi and for her beloved bear.

This heartfelt thank you from Lyla touched every heart in the place, and was responsible for more than a few teary eyes. The team that hand makes the Burden Bears was especially touched by this thoughtful gift.

The goal at our Hospice is to make sure that our palliative care envelops and supports the patient, their family, and loved ones – through their journey and beyond. From Hospice care to Burden Bears, that’s the Hospice Way.