Pam's Story
Double Rainbow Remembering Pam

Pam Cowan’s journey with Hospice spanned nearly a decade of her life – a time fuelled by hardship, but also moments of love, compassion and undeniable friendships.

Pam and her husband Frank’s experience with Hospice began with their daughter Amanda. After battling an incurable illness, Amanda died at home in 2007 at the age of 28. Pam and Frank were devastated to have lost their beautiful and intelligent daughter at such a young age.

In the final months of her life, Amanda was unable to leave the house, but Hospice sent a Reiki practitioner to their home. "Amanda’s biggest problem was getting out," said Frank. "She wouldn’t have been a part of anything if Hospice hadn’t come."

After Amanda died, Pam turned to hospice to help manage her grief.

She joined a walking group and a discussion group, and took advantage of complementary massage therapy.

Not long after, their lives were turned upside down once again. Pam was diagnosed with a palliative illness, and was told she had only a few years to live. Pam’s first reaction was to worry what this might mean for her family.

Needing some time to relinquish her role as caregiver—and having benefitted from her previous experiences with Hospice—Pam decided to try the volunteer visitor program, where she met Hospice volunteer Joan Picken.

"I remember that first visit when Joan was walking up the driveway," recalls Frank. "Pam and I were sitting on the deck, and I left. And from that time on, those visits were something Pam would always really look forward to."

"We were like sisters," said Joan. "I knew we would get along from that very first day in September 2011. The first time she said ‘Hello’ I felt a connection. And she told me she felt exactly the same way."

Joan visited Pam every Thursday for three years. They would go to White Oaks Mall or Tim Horton’s, and have long, candid talks.

"I always looked forward to my Thursdays with Pam -- going out, having a laugh. She was always interested in me and my family as well," said Joan.

Their relationship grew stronger right up to the day Pam was brought to Hospice as a resident. It was a day when Frank could not have been more grateful to both Joan and all of Pam’s caregivers.

"When I walked into Hospice, they took care of Pam right away," he said. "The whole feeling was different. The first time they got her in a bed was the first time I had been comfortable in a long time."

As Frank watched the staff and volunteers take over Pam’s care, he began to understand why Pam was always so invested in her patients during her career as a nurse.

And though Pam’s role changed from caretaker to resident, she remained ever her headstrong self as she spent time with Frank, Joan, and several family members who stayed by her bedside throughout her stay.

Frank was grateful for the discretion of the staff members while his family went through such a difficult time. "The people at Hospice were always there, but they were never intrusive. It’s like the safety line when you are on that girder. You don’t know what you need until you really need it."

Pam spent less than a week in Hospice before she passed away July 20, 2014; ten days after her 65th birthday.

It’s only been six months since Pam died, and the grief is still fresh for Frank. He and Joan keep in touch, and he knows Hospice is always there if he needs it.

For Joan, losing Pam was like losing a sister, but she wouldn’t take back those three years she spent with her for anything. "I still think of her when I see rainbows," said Joan. "Whenever Pam saw a rainbow, she said it was her daughter Amanda’s sign to her. In August, I saw a double rainbow, and I said, ‘That’s Pam and Amanda.’ It gave me chills."

Thank you to Frank Cowan and Joan Picken for sharing your memories of Pam with us.