He wanted the t-shirt. A special, rainbow coloured tie-dye t-shirt with a big red heart in the middle, worn by the hospice residence team who cared for him in his last weeks of life.
So, they got him one. And he was so happy to wear it, he gathered everyone together around his bed at hospice for a photo.
Even now, looking at the photograph, he smiles again.
“I just see a bunch of happy people, including me,” he says. “To me, it’s a big heart and it means that people care. They’re such good people. They’ve got such good hearts.”
LeRoy Bell, a retired General Motors iron pourer, husband, and great-grandfather died in December 2021 with his wife, Helga Bell, by his side, surrounded by love, memories and tangible reminders of a life well lived.
He filled his private suite at hospice with many treasured mementoes from home, including his prized golf trophy from the day he landed a hole-in-one from 165 yards. “I didn’t even see the ball go in,” he says, laughing. “Everybody else saw it and they started yelling.”
Scattered throughout his room are his most cherished photos. Family. Friends. Moments from his 78 years of living. In one, his friends are gathered around tables at Niagara Square, where they would meet every morning, Monday to Saturday, for coffee and conversation. “We’d talk about everything, about life,” he says. “We had a good time.”
Throughout LeRoy’s stay at hospice, even though he could no longer walk, he embraced life and felt connected to hospice and the people who provided him compassionate care.
“This is a place of peace,” says Helga, “It’s all about keeping you comfortable. You couldn’t ask for any better.”
On their 10th anniversary, they ordered Chinese food and celebrated with a glass of wine in his room. “It was beautiful,” says LeRoy.
LeRoy enjoyed soaks in the spa tub and watching the latest news on TV in his room. But most of all, he embraced the spirit of fun and good cheer by joining staff on their designated tee days. No matter the colour, he found a matching shirt to wear.
In his words: “You just gotta enjoy life because that’s what it’s all about.
“Life is what you make it.”
Helga says she appreciated that hospice care supported her well-being too.
“It was so calming. I was there for his last breath of life. He was ready to go. He went peacefully.
“It’s a wonderful place.”