Monday, 10 November 2014

Our Mother Wore Army Boots

The facts of the story are true, names have been changed to respect the privacy of a WW II veteran.

Lieutenant Mary Hogan (not her real name) served Canada during World War II. An officer in the Canadian Women’s Army Corps (CWAC) she served both in Canada and in England. Now at 98 years of age, Mary is waiting in a hospital ward for a place in the Colonel Belcher Veteran’s Retirement Residence, a care facility in Calgary built expressly for the needs of Canada’s aging veterans.

As the Belcher was designed for veterans, why then, as perhaps the last surviving Canadian woman veteran of WW II, has Mary been waiting for months to be given a room of her own? 

 Until last year she was in good health for her age and lived with her daughter in Calgary. After a stroke earlier this year, Mary was hospitalized but, with characteristic resiliency, she rebounded. Now she is allowed home only on weekends because she is without resources to have care at home while her daughter, who has her own health issues, works from Monday to Friday. In her late 90s, Mary has to make the best of the hospital ward which she shares with three others. Is this what Canada wants for one of her most senior veterans? Is this just treatment for one who answered the call to risk her life for her country?

After WW II Mary married another veteran, a Captain in the Canadian Dental Corps whom she had met in England, and together, they raised five children all born after the war and after she turned 35! She was the inspiration for the protagonist in a novel written by a CWAC veteran friend who has since died. 
Her five children live and work in different provinces around the country. Mary waits for phone calls and holds on to hope for a dignified place in which to live her final years. How is it that our country appears to be so cavalier about the needs of our most senior service personnel in the twilight of their years?

Mary does not complain. “Thanks so much for calling,” she says to me, her son, serving as a Catholic priest in Toronto. I wait and pray for a better place for our mother at the end of her life. She answered her country’s call to service when they needed her over 70 years ago. Will our country answer her need now?

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