Mom’s last weeks and days and hours were spent at H. J. Mcfarland Memorial Home in Picton, Prince Edward County, Ontario. For me, it was very important that Dad take me on a bit of a journey of the grounds and halls that they shared together during that time. I wanted to see the gardens that Mom saw, before the roses came into full bloom. I wanted to see the crops in the fields that they saw together, growing and changing day by day, as Dad pushed Mom’s wheelchair. He said that in the first days, there was nothing but soil…and then the lovely green of spring sprouts came to be. Gardens and the landscapes of Canada were always so inherent to Mom.
The day that I visited, I saw the courtyard that Mom would have seen from her window. I saw the roses in full bloom and I sat in the shade of the gazebo where together, my parents would take quiet rest. I looked out at the sprawling grounds and saw the mighty trees. I could not help but connect with a sense of life’s cycles and about the continuity of all life: from the dawn of living things until the dusk…and finally, rest…knowing that the darkness is a step into light everlasting, aptly written by Rabindranath Tagore.
“Death is not extinguishing the light; it is only putting out the lamp because the dawn has come.”
…and from the Psalms…
You light a lamp for me. The LORD, my God, lights up my darkness. (NLT)
The women and men who cared for Mom during her last days and supported Dad as he walked this journey, were people of great blessing. Mom was given the dignity and light that she so deserved. She was given beautiful meals. She was able to touch soil for the last time, potting small plants in the springtime. Mom and Dad were given respect and kindness and for this and more, I will always be grateful.
Recently, I watched a Frontline documentary about assisted living and I know that for some families, there is a huge deficiency in the care that is given for their loved ones. As our population of ‘boomers’ continues to grow, I think that it is imperative that there be stronger guidelines for the sake of those we love and advocacy on the part of all governments and citizens, for strong practice in the arenas of social, spiritual, physical, mental and psychological responsibility to our aging populations. While I don’t wish for this post to become political, there is much to be said about these issues not being swept under the carpet, but for light to be shed on related issues.
I am in awe at the strength that my father showed in his walk with his precious wife and my mother and her journey with Alzheimer’s disease. Because of his inspirational ‘walk’, I am far more aware and sensitive to the vast numbers of caregivers who are daily-struggling with some version of his own truth. Society has to re-focus their best efforts where all of these interconnected issues come to intersect.
This being said, and looking again at the purpose for this post, I want to close by saying that I am grateful for the care that Mom received at H. J. Mcfarland Memorial Home. Below, a brief description of the man who generously donated the property and facility that in the end, was my mother’s last home in Prince Edward County.
Harvey McFarland grew up as a poor farm boy in Roblin, Ontario. His childhood experience drove him to seek a better life. After a series of jobs as a logger, and threshing grain and hauling rock with his team of horses, Harvey started a construction company that made him a millionaire.