SUMMERSIDE, P.E.I. - When the dark moments of grief threaten to take hold, Brenda Gavin reminds herself of the compassion, comfort, and peace her mother found – thanks to the staff of Hospice P.E.I.
“She hated being alone in the hospital because she had lived with us when she was first diagnosed with extensive-stage small cell lung cancer, but hospice made it so much easier,” said Gavin, who is grateful to all the staff.
“It was a very aggressive cancer, but mom decided she would look at it on the positive side and try to beat it. She made tons of new friends while she was fighting the disease in the hospital, the Summerside manor, and then hospice.”
Even though Judy Gallant’s life was ebbing away, she was free from anguish and distracted from her pain by the hospice staff as they read, played games, and cocooned her in a place where she felt safe and secure.
Hospice P.E.I.’s Liz Parsons, coordinator of volunteers for East Prince County, said she fondly remembers Gavin’s mother, Judy Gallant.
“Judy was a ray of sunshine. She was so very, very sick that you would expect an ill-temper, you know, but every time you walked into that room her face would just light up. She was so happy to have company, and that’s why the hospice volunteers were very important to her.
“The hours alone were very hard for her, but as soon as someone was there she was just a light and it’s actually very fitting that Judy is the first light on the Christmas tree,” said Parsons.
The Hospice Let their Light Shine campaign is an important community event.
“The lighting of the light on the Christmas tree is a very symbolic moment for them,” said Parsons. “It’s a fundraiser for hospice, but it’s also our way of connecting with the community over their losses and our losses.”
Hospice staff made every moment count, according to Gavin.
“Even in the end when mom was so sick and in so much pain, she was so happy to see them. When she knew she was dying the hospice ladies all came to say goodbye. She was so attached to them and just loved them.”
Gallant lost her life to cancer in November 2017.
It’s been really hard because we miss her,” said Gavin as tears filled her eyes.
“When mom passed this was one of the things we asked for, no flowers, but that if people wanted to do something they could donate to the hospice in Prince County so other people could have that help.”
She added, “It’s good that they have this tree here, so they can support other families going through this painful time. It was very thoughtful of them to include us with their first light.”
A single light glowed in remembrance of Gallant in the middle of the Summerside Superstore foyer on Sunday evening.
In the know:
“Volunteers will be available to accept donations to light up a life on the Christmas tree in Summerside’s Superstore every Monday from Nov. 26 until Dec. 9 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays to Saturdays and 12 to 6 p.m. on Sundays.
All the proceeds for the lights on the Christmas tree go towards hospice, a not-for-profit organization, which has a staff of volunteers that care for people at the end of life and their families, as well as provide support in their home or hospital.