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Hospice Hero

Margaret Urbshott

Each of us has our own cherished memories of our Mom, Margaret. For each person, she held a special role in our lives – wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, sister, sister-in-law, aunt, friend, and companion. Some people are defined by their job or favorite activity or the awards they have won, but when asked about Mom, people do not comment on those kinds of things. Instead, they speak of favorite memories of her, over and over again saying that they have so many good days with her and so many wonderful memories that it is difficult to choose just one. Because the thing that defined all of her relationships was love. Mom was a woman who valued people above all else and that was reflected in the way she lived her life. When people speak about her, they do not focus on what she did, but rather, the way they felt when they were with her.

Mom’s true passion was our family. She was so close to each of her children – to Norma, and Clayton, and Marlene. We phoned her every day… not just because she was our mom, but because she was our advocate, our encourager. We called because we wanted to touch base, share what was happening, and simply laugh and chat with our best friend. She made sure that we knew how special we were and how loved. We talked about anything and everything in those daily conversations and it was a custom that strengthened bonds that were already unbreakable. And that love was reciprocated fully by each of us; our devotion was unmistakable as each of us blessed her every day with our care, attention, and company. But it was not just with her children that Mom demonstrated her love of family; it was with her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, too. She made sure to connect meaningfully with each of them, to let them know she would always be there for them, and that they were precious beyond measure. Honestly, she did that for everyone in her circle. Family is in the lifeblood of the Howe’s and Mom embraced that with her whole being and she has passed that along to her children, too.

Mom would welcome everyone into her home and heart. There was always fabulous food and lots of laughs. Those are treasured memories. Everyone [whether they were hers or not] was made to feel welcomed and wanted. The lovely thing about Mom is that she was just so sweet and so kind; it was just such a natural part of her being, that even when she was in Chapman House, that part of her still shone brightly. At one point, her family doctor in the hospice stated after another day of a non-stop stream of visitors, that perhaps Mom should limit how many people came and for how long. She was having none of that – Her response to her was that everyone was welcome and if she got tired, she would just go to sleep. She may have tried to hide it, but she was a spitfire! Her legacy truly lives on in her own children.
It was so easy to be with Mom; she was easygoing and quick to laugh and smile, and you just knew that she would be in your corner no matter what was going on in your life. That steadfast loyalty and devotion marked all of her relationships – with her parents, her husband Jack, her children and grandchildren, her family, and her friends. Knowing that she would listen without judgement, support you without exception, and champion you when you felt alone, or fragile, or defeated meant that Mom was the perfect confidante and friend. She had the ability to connect with people of all ages: she had many friends of her own generation, but she also was able to effortlessly reach out to children and offer them her support and encouragement. She had the ability to listen and relate to others, to make them feel safe and valued and valuable.

One of most inspiring things about Mom was her sense of adventure and fun. She and Dad were well matched on so many levels, but perhaps especially in the ways that they enjoyed life together. They loved their bus trip excursions and they took those opportunities to explore Canada and the US. They delighted in these experiences. They both loved spending time with their family, but as their children grew up and moved out, they found ways to continue to develop and strengthen their own relationship. They always loved sports and they were ideal partners in their commitment to supporting their favorite teams. She and Dad were avid and long-time supporters of the Owen Sound Attack [even when they were the Platers] and even when they didn’t even live in Owen Sound. Their unwavering patronage of the Attack did not go unnoticed and the club counted them among their best and finest supporters. She loved her hockey, but she loved her family and extended family more. And she certainly knew how to nurture the passion for supporting and cheering on the Attack in others – all of her children have season tickets.

Mom had a vitality that drew people to her and kept them there. There was this sparkle in her eyes that was honestly magical… one look at her and you just had to smile. She had the ability to really connect with each person, to really look at you and almost into you. You knew that you had her full attention and that she was listening attentively to everything that you were saying. By the spark in her eyes, you did not have to know Mom for a long time to feel that. Even while she was at Chapman House, she created relationships with the staff and volunteers that were very special. They would pop in to see her just because, check in on their days off, decorate her room and they even brought her gifts and cards on her birthday. These people, who had only known Mom in her last few weeks, could recognize the inherent beauty in her and they responded enthusiastically. When one staff member was going to be off for 10 days, he left word that he was to be notified if there were any changes in her while he was gone. Upon his return, his first mission was to see Mom for himself, so that he could make sure she was doing well. What an amazing gift to inspire that level of friendship and loyalty so quickly. But she did. She was genuine and down-to-earth; you got what you saw and what you saw was the real deal. When a person lives with that kind of authenticity, AND they have a heart as big and open and loving as Mom’s, it is captivating. She charmed that staff, as much as she has charmed each of us over the years, just by being herself. You couldn’t help but be lifted up by her beautiful smile and those eyes that lit up the room.

Mom was strong; she was a fighter and a hard worker and even when things were very challenging, she made it work. And she did it with a positive attitude and a smile. Those qualities were evident even while she was in hospice. It was amazing to watch Mom, even in those circumstances, laugh and joke with everyone, and cheer on her beloved Attack… and then, when Owen Sound was eliminated, she championed Guelph who had a number of former Owen Sound Attack players on their team, all the way until they won the Ontario Hockey League Championship. Because that was Mom – loyal, through thick and thin!
It means so much that Mom could not only give love, but also receive it. It was an honour to be able to tell her how precious she was to our family and to know that she believed that. It was special that she knew that her legacy will live on not only in the lives and actions of her own children and grandchildren, but also that her lessons and stories will be shared among her extended family and friends. Mom was a gift and she shared her gifts generously with all of us. She will be missed, but she will never be gone. We love you, Mom, and you will be forever in our hearts.

– Love Norma (Mike), Clayton (Keri), Marlene and families