Maureen and Flora's Story
Maureen O’Halloran mourns the loss of her beautiful mother, Flora. Yet, in the midst of her grief, she recently found the courage to come back to St. Joseph’s Hospice to share her story.

Flora Elizabeth O’Halloran spent the last week of her life at St. Joseph’s Hospice before she passed away on April 1st, 2014 at the age of 81. It was only a few months earlier on Christmas Day that her daughter, Maureen, knew something was very wrong with Flora. She hadn’t seen her mother in a few weeks, but when she arrived home to celebrate Christmas with her family and was greeted by her mother, her heart broke. From that day, the journey to hospice care was rapid.

Flora was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in early January. A stent was inserted to reduce her symptoms. While the procedure initially took its toll, Flora’s health began to improve, so much so that she was soon back in her kitchen happily cooking; however, the surge in apparent good health was not to last. Flora was quickly referred to palliative care and was assigned a VON nurse. It was recommended that she connect with St. Joseph’s Hospice for support.

Flora knew she was quite ill. She loved her home and her garden very much and wanted to die at home with her family by her side. Maureen, her loving and dutiful daughter, visited her parents’ home daily and worried deeply about her mother. She took time away from work to care for her mom and support her dad. She made sure the house was clean, the meals were prepared and that her mother was cared for. She loved her mother and thought, “she deserves the very best.” Unfortunately, her role as caregiver sometimes took over her place as daughter. Flora would often say to Maureen, “please stop working so hard and come and sit with me.”

In March, Flora agreed to visit St. Joseph’s Hospice. She hadn’t been out of the house since before Christmas and was glad to come and have one of the hospice hairdressing volunteers cut and style her hair. She had beautiful, thick white hair and was beaming with her new hairdo. On that day, she toured the residence and informed her family that she could indeed spend her last days at hospice.

Flora was a very special lady with a wonderful sense of humour and great zest for life. The hospice care staff and volunteers laughed with her often during her stay. One nurse told Maureen, “In all of my years of nursing, no one has touched my life quite like your mother.” Flora and her family were overjoyed with the attention, affection and care provided during one of the most important weeks of their lives.

During her week at hospice, the family members were also provided with needed support. They spent 12-hour days by Flora’s side. Maureen was delighted to drift back into her authentic role as daughter, leaving the caregiving to the trained and professional care team. This, says Maureen, “was one of the best gifts I was given” because being a caregiver had left her emotionally and physically exhausted.

The pinnacle of Maureen’s experience was the “farewell ceremony.” In the wee hours of the morning, Flora’s body, shrouded with a beautiful handmade quilt, was accompanied by the family and staff to the front door of St. Joseph’s Hospice. There, standing with family and staff, arm-in-arm, two scripture passages were read for Flora. They had time to say goodbye before Flora was taken to the funeral home. Maureen has thought about that moment many times since that heartbreaking day on April 1st, and each time the true meaning of being cared for with dignity is brought to her mind.

St. Joseph’s Hospice is a beautiful new facility in London, Ontario, serving the people of London and Middlesex County. It is home-like and in the midst of beautiful surroundings. “At its core it’s just a building,” reflects Maureen, “what makes it extraordinary is the staff and the compassionate care.”