"How did your weekend go?" the ultimate question…. moving out of the Ronald McDonald House Toronto after 5 month was very emotional. I said goodbye to another mother, who is on her second time being here and also on her 5 month mark. She is there with her husband, two healthy boys and sick daughter with a very very rare genetic disorder. As much as I tried to be strong, tears still escaped, continuing even now. However, the tears were not because I was going to miss this mother but because it just felt so sad and unfair that she was still there. Her daughter was regressing after progressing just weeks prior, back in hospital with no end in sight. I will not call it guilt but more an acknowledgement and reminder of feelings. That feeling of "this is never going to end". The feeling of watching your child disappear a little each day and helpless to stop. The feeling of happiness and longing at the same time as other families leave and we were still there. But now we were really leaving and yes we are happy but I can't push the feelings away as I think of all those still there, all the star lights I had seen while there and all the new people constantly coming in.
The Ronald McDonald Houses in Ottawa, Boston, and Toronto have all been amazing through this voyage but I must say the Toronto one was the one that really did feel like a home. It gave me a sense of community and I developed friendships with total understanding. There is so much I am thankful for on this voyage but there are a couple people I would like to acknowledge specifically. I would like to thank Diane for being so amazingly helpful and always offering a listening ear, even at the late hours of night when sleep felt like it would never come and I was at the end of my rope. Thank you to Judy for facilitating so many great memories (and through marketing which I love) that also let me feel like I was contributing or giving back in a small way to the house. Memories through McHappy day interview with Aiden on the weather network, professional photo shoot for the corporate annual report ( which I received a copy of and all the photos from that day.) also the priceless photo that was sent in media release of Aiden as he turned 8 and founder George Cohon turning 80 both on May 1st. And a huge thank you to Mr. Cohon for starting RMHC Canada and seeing and fulfilling a need in the healthcare system to support families not with medical services but but the effects having a sick child has on the whole family emotionally, logistically and financially.A thank you to the teachers, Danelle & Ryan and Katie the principal who were so understanding to Aiden's needs, working in the windows of him feeling healthy enough to attend and also taking in Declan at the drop of a hat for the last month of school. letting me know that these transitions are difficult but they were there to help anyway they can. Thank you to Theo and the door staff who always greeted Aiden with a smile and would check the mail without a hesitation or annoyance, just kindness. And up to 5 times a day as he asked. There is an endless list of people I could thank at the house, the staff and volunteers are truly amazing, but I really want to thank all the Donors and sponsors who contribute financially to the house. I can not even begin to imagine the upkeep cost of the house in downtown Toronto. The pantry cupboard is always fully stocked, milk, coffees, snack bags to go to
Hospital. Laundry facilities for the endless mounds of soiled clothes from the effect of chemo. Movie theatre where Aiden was able to have "movie date" with these little girlfriends he had met and just being able to go do something when he was too sick to actually leave the house. Thank you to all the organizations who provided "Home for Dinner" meals, with Aiden not able to eat food and especially when I had the other two boys these meals where honestly a life saver to my sanity and health.
It is such an emotional feeling as we shut the door of this chapter of our story. The memories from the house will be with me forever, the image of Aiden in the bathtub will haunt me forever but the memories of Aidens surprise 8th birthday in the gym and the image of him laughing and playing for the first time in MONTHS with other kids will be with me too!
My writing here can not do the place justice. Unless you have lived for extended time at RMH you will never understand what it is like, but I will say that I could not imagine where we would be at if we did not have the house to stay at, emotionally, physically and financially. The other mother said it best as we said our goodbyes "it's was so great meeting you, but I hope I never see you again". It truly is bittersweet.
Words of wisdom to all living at the RMH now and all to follow, stay strong, Connect, make friends and know you are not alone and when it all just seems like too much to bear, keep kicking that darkness until it bleeds daylight!