George Robb’s family will always remember him as a man who was a good friend and liked to do things his own way.
“He was an ordinary man who worked as a car salesman and a taxi driver. He always had something funny to say and he’d talk to everyone he met anywhere,” his daughter, Lorna Robb, recalled.
Daughter-in-law Antje Schirwinsky said that she had not known George for long but he had left an impression.
“When we had just started the business, he would come in every morning and bring us a newspaper and make a few jokes for a good start to the morning,” she said.
When George was 83, he started saying things like, “I’m done.” He stopped going out and when the family, Lorna and her brother, Scott Robb, visited, they were concerned.
“He didn’t have any particular disease but he seemed to be fading away. We called an ambulance and had him taken to the hospital. He didn’t talk to us for two days after that. He wanted to die alone at home in his own way,” said Lorna.
“When he went to Hospice House the staff was so respectful of his unique personality and situation. The staff was just as concerned about us as family members. I was able to describe the care our father was getting to my sisters who had visited him in the hospital but couldn’t stay longer and it gave them peace of mind. I have to say that I think the staff there really loved my dad when he was there. They are not afraid to show emotion and that helped us.”
Lorna knew about Hospice House from doing the fundraiser Dancing with the Vernon Stars but did not think she would have a personal experience there, and Antje didn’t have any experience with it.
“Walking in the front door, I didn’t know what to expect. It is so friendly and bright and the rooms are so comfortable. It made just such a peace. It is such a different way of leaving. We were able to stay as long as we wanted, anytime we wanted,” said Antje, Scott’s wife. “He enjoyed being pampered. The nurses and other staff members knew exactly what to do, how to engage him and talk with him.
“I think he liked the touch, he had been living alone for a long time and they would stroke his head and ears or pat his arms.”
The family has a special memory of the night not long before George died when they played Johnny Cash CDs and drank Grande Marnier — his favourite music and drink. George could not swallow well so they put some of the drink on a sponge and put it to his lips.
“He was sucking it up. We knew he was enjoying it,” said Lorna. “Sometimes he asked us to tell it to him like it is and he would ask, ‘is this the end of the road?’ and I would say, ‘Yes, it’s the end,’ and he seemed satisfied with that.”
George was at Hospice House for two weeks and two days. The night he died the family was there until about 9 p.m. The nurse on duty sensed it might be time to say good-bye and told the family.
“I had not thought of saying good-bye so peacefully like that. I wished him a nice journey,” said Antje.
They all said their good-byes and it seemed that George had been waiting to know that they would be all right when he was gone. He died at midnight that night, March 14, 2011.
“When Dad’s friends and family members died, he would always say, ‘Now they know.’ Now he knows,” said Lorna.
“Hospice House made sure our dad got good care so we could spend time with him. Our father was able to die in his own way but in a way that was so much nicer than being all alone.
“It sounds strange to say, but it was such a good experience for us all. The staff continues to help us with things like the paper work and the social worker, Sheila Odney, calls to see how we are doing. I wish my sisters could have the help we got — Scott and I were the lucky ones.”
Lorna is going to continue Dancing with the Vernon Stars this year and she and Antje are getting teams together for the Hike for Hospice fundraiser in May.
“We are going to dance part of the way for the hike, maybe the foxtrot to Dean Martin’s Everybody Loves Somebody Sometime. He liked that song, I remember him singing it when I was a little girl and he was a great dancer,” said Lorna.
Antje is doing another fundraiser through her business, Crush Bistro in downtown Vernon. The proceeds from every crème brûlée sold during the month of April will go to Hike for Hospice.
Hike for Hospice takes place May 1 in Polson Park, with a pancake breakfast at 8 a.m. and the walk starting at 9:15 a.m. Pre-registration is encouraged but people can register the day of the event.
For more information, registration and pledge sheets, please call Valerie at 250-503-1800 (extension 113), see the website at www.nohs.ca or pick up pledge sheets at Hospice House, Nolan’s Pharmasave or VantageOne Credit Union.