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Mary Luker

As a homecare worker for 25 years, Mary Luker knows how important it is to provide care and comfort in the home. The task took on a whole new meaning however, when she had to care for her husband Robert. Knowing the toll his care was having on his wife, Robert offered to go to hospital. Mary knew that wasn’t what he wanted. It wasn’t what she wanted either. Robert died on his birthday at home, exactly where he wanted to be. “I loved every minute of it,” said Mary. “I loved him to death. He treated me like gold, and I got the chance to return the favour.”

Robert and Mary’s journey was made easier thanks to the support of the Palliative Care Service medical staff and Hospice Palliative Care Society of Cape Breton County.   Mary says the staff that came to their home were awesome. “They answered every question I had, showed me how to inject the pain medication,” said Mary. “They allowed me to concentrate on being there for him.” Bob was the type of person that didn’t want anything sugar coated and always dealt with the truth.   The openness with which staff provided his care made it easier on the couple. They knew what was facing them both.   “Having their support took a lot of stress off my shoulders,” said Mary. “And it allowed Bob to live the way he wanted each and every day.”

Music Therapist Jill Murphy was part of the team that provided support for the family.   With her help, Bob put together CDs for the family and Build-A-Bears for the grandkids.  Bob loved to watch cooking shows, and would have many ideas on what to create in the kitchen for themselves, families and visitors. Bob knew Jill was coming over, and decided that stuffed mushrooms should be on the menu that day. “It was surprising what he came up with,” said Mary. “It was all a part of making sure he had everything he wanted.”

Like many Cape Bretoners, Bob was a big hockey fan and loved discussing the latest action on the ice with nurse Susan MacKenzie. After one visit, Susan—a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs fan club, decided to reposition Bob’s beloved Bruins garden gnome to face the world from a different angle, much to Bob’s surprise and delight.  Mary says Bob made the most of his time, including taking in a Johnny Reid concert and spending one last night at their summer cottage in Aspy Bay. With the help of two friends, Bob was able sit on the steps of the cottage, enjoying the spectacular view with a whiskey and a cigar. A week before Bob passed away, the family came together for a traditional Easter brunch, and an early birthday celebration. Mary says she takes comfort knowing that she made it possible to have everything the way Bob wanted. “I loved taking care of him, and I’m so glad that he was able to stay at home with the people he loved in the place he was most comfortable.”