Proceeds


Soon after his mother died, his father made a heartfelt request. Alois Schwendinger, a man who left Austria after the Second World War for "temporary" work in Canada, a father, grandfather and cancer survivor, a cabinetmaker with rugged hands and a gentle heart, wanted to die in the same place as his wife, Ruth.

His beloved Ruth - the love of his life for almost 60 years and reason he never returned to Austria - was 81 when she died at Hospice Niagara in 2018.

And that's where Alois wanted to go. When it was his time, of course.

Glenn Schwendinger, Alois' son was both surprised, and impressed, with his dad's matter-of-fact approach.

"He said, 'That's where I want to go when it comes to my time'," says Glenn. "And I said, 'What do you mean dad? You're not sick.'

"And he said, 'When the time comes, that's where I want to go'."

It was just before Christmas 2017 when Ruth was admitted to hospice. "It's a really tough decision, a really tough day to bring your parent to a facility that you know what's going to happen," says Glenn.

"It ended up being some of the most special times we had with her."


The weight, the burden, the endless worry of caring for Ruth at home was lifted. "We'll take care of her," staff in the residence assured the family, "Your job now is just to love her."

And love her, they did. She had it tough growing up in Germany and throughout her life she was determined to give her children and grandchildren the childhood she never had. Ruth loved the outdoors, especially building snowmen. When her daughter and grand-daughter, who lived in New Zealand, came to hospice to visit her, in January, with plenty of packable white stuff blanketing the ground, everyone knew what needed to be done. A huge snowman was constructed outside her window and in that moment, Ruth knew a part of her, would live on as her legacy.

Ruth died Jan. 15, 2018.

In the months that followed, Alois would drop by hospice, sometimes with an offering of chocolates and always kind words.  "He wanted to say, thank you. They made such an impression on him when he was going through such a difficult time," says Glenn. "It was beyond touching."



And then, less than a year later came more devastating news: the prostate cancer Alois thought was gone for good, had returned. It was aggressive and had already spread.

Alois wanted to live at home for as long as possible, surrounded by memories of Ruth, and then, as he'd told his son months before, come to hospice when the time was right.

In that year, Glenn would often drive to St. Catharines from his home in Waterloo, taking his father to chemotherapy treatments. But after returning Alois to his house at day's end, Glenn, wearied and emotionally spent, was sometimes not ready for a long drive home. Instead, he sought comfort and peace in a familiar place - hospice. There was no need to go inside; he found strength simply by sitting in his car, in the parking lot.

"It might sound odd," he begins, "but there was this overwhelming feeling, that it would be OK," he says. "Just being there ... It felt like a hug from one of the staff."

Alois was admitted to hospice one Thursday in February 2020; he was gone, by Monday.

His wishes, honoured; he died in the very room in which Ruth had spent her final days, surrounded by his family.

"It's hard to describe, that a place where you lose a loved one has such special memories, but it does," says Glenn.

"It was such a comforting and supportive place to be during such a difficult time."