Magic wands don't make wishes comes true, big hearts do. At ARCH we go beyond caring for the physical, emotional and spiritual well-being of our residents and their families - we create special moments and, above all, fulfill wishes.
Every day, our staff and volunteers help fulfill the wishes of our residents. Mostly, it is the little things our residents cherish: seeing their home one last time, enjoying their favourite meal with their closest loved ones, or spending a few hours just looking at something beautiful.
Since opening our doors in 2008, we have helped fulfill the wishes of over 900 residents and their families. We believe positive end-of-life experiences are far too important to pass up.
Just some of the wishes fulfilled at ARCH Hospice!
The Gift of One Final Goodbye Between a Mother and Daughter
Recently, members of our Hospice team met Amanda, the daughter of one of our residents, Diane. Amanda was kind enough to share her story with us; one filled with heartache, forgiveness, acceptance and unconditional love, reminding us just how precious life is.
Having grown up in Sault Ste. Marie, Diane met a military man and moved to the United States. During their tumultuous relationship their three children, including Amanda, were given up for adoption. It was a difficult time in Diane’s life, weighing heavily on her heart throughout her lifetime.
Amanda was adopted by a wonderful family in Portland, Oregon, where she continues to reside. She knew from a young age that her parents were not her biological parents and never resented Diane, but hoped to have the opportunity to one day meet her.
Amanda and Diane had made plans in 2016 to meet but an accident prevented Amanda from visiting her mom. After giving birth to a beautiful baby girl with special needs, Amanda decided to reach out to her mom again. One of Amanda’s prevailing reasons for wanting to reach out to Diane was to learn more about her own health history, in hopes of gaining insight into her daughter’s condition. Unfortunately, Diane and Amanda both struggled with financial setbacks that made it too difficult for them to meet.
In April of 2018, Diane came to ARCH after a short battle with cancer. While she was at ARCH, she mentioned she wished to Skype with Amanda. This was their first interaction face-to-face and proved to be an incredibly powerful and emotional moment for both women.
The video chat further fueled Amanda’s desires to physically meet her biological mother but financial constraints still hindered her ability to travel such a vast distance. It was a devastating reality as Diane’s condition worsened but Julie Premo, Manager of Support Services at ARCH, remembered a conversation she had with a gentleman more than three years ago that sparked an idea. Amanda’s wish to meet her biological mother was made possible thanks to the Give a Mile program.
In July of 2015, Julie received an email from Ian Bos. After losing his father to cancer that January and seeing the impact that palliative care had on not only his father but his family, Ian wanted to do something big to get more people thinking about the importance of palliative care. He embarked on a nationwide walk to raise awareness. Julie was able to meet Ian when he passed through the Sault that July and the two stayed in touch. A year after he completed his walk across Canada, Ian became a spokesperson for Give a Mile, a program that provides free flights for loved ones of individuals facing end-of-life. He introduced Julie to the program and explained how hospices across the country were accessing its services.
Because of that conversation, Amanda and Diane’s story took an unexpectedly pleasant turn.
After a second Skype session, Diane and Amanda wished to connect in person and expressed how wonderful it would be to meet face-to-face. Julie immediately applied to Give a Mile. Within one hour, it was confirmed that Amanda’s travel costs would be covered by the Give a Mile program. She was set to arrive in the Sault within 48 hours. Julie worked quickly to arrange somewhere for Amanda to stay while visiting her mother. The Delta Hotel and the Water Tower Inn generously provided free accommodations.
Amanda arrived in the Sault after a daunting flight from Oregon. Her flight had been delayed more than 24 hours and her luggage hadn’t arrived with her, but she remained hopeful and excited to meet her biological mother. Not long after arriving in the Sault, Amanda made her way to ARCH.
Upon hearing the news of her daughter’s upcoming arrival, Diane became noticeably anxious. Throughout her life, she struggled to overcome her guilt. Once Amanda had arrived and the two women met for the first time, face-to-face, Diane quickly apologized for her decision so many years ago. Amanda reassured her mother that she forgave her and harboured no ill will. Their conversation was followed by a tearful embrace. Diane’s anxiety immediately disappeared. She was at peace.
Amanda stayed and kept vigil at her mother’s bedside for 10 days. She and her mom reminisced and built new memories together, they shared stories and created scrapbooks, Diane shared special keepsakes with Amanda and gave her treasured cookbooks and photos for her to share with her sisters.
Their time together was incredibly special for both of them and it was made possible thanks to the generosity of Give a Mile and our community. Amanda was so appreciative for the chance to sit with her mother for the first time:
“I am so grateful that I get to be here with her. I have seen much more peace on her face. She said to me today that she is ready to go now.”
The day before Amanda was set to fly back home, the two exchanged their goodbyes. Diane passed at 9 pm the evening before Amanda’s flight departed which brought her great peace knowing that she was so close when her mother died.
In a second email, written shortly after Diane had passed, Amanda wrote:
“I wanted to say to you – thank you so much for all that you have done for me and for my mom. It has meant the world to both of us that I could be here in her last days. I know that she is at peace now. I will never forget you or the staff. You all have touched me in a way that made me feel as home as I could. You are an amazing woman. Thank you.”