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MARCH 2019

Goodby Beautiful Kate


Pamela Wolf was a gentle and gracious woman. She came to Fairway on 19th July 2017 with the constant attention of her 2 daughters: Andrea and Kate.  I can see them now walking up the corridor together. Tall, impressive women but all gentle and friendly.

Pamela had some great early months with us. She pushed herself to keep walking and worked hard in therapy to maintain her mobility.  But the inevitability of advanced age and confusion led to her injuring her leg twice – once a contusion and then by a fall.

We always feel very remorseful when folk have accidents in our care. We would dearly like this never to occur but sadly this is impossible.

Pamela required surgery and some extensive time in hospital. She never complained she accepted her lot with humour and grace. Of course she had pain and disablement but she was brave and resilient. We became very close to Andrea and Kate. Pamela had another daughter and a son, Debbie and Paul, as well but Andrea and Kate were recuperating after accidents and we saw them frequently whilst they were on leave from work. Kate had hurt her shoulder whilst on holiday and Andrea broke her lower leg charging over Bluff Rd after visiting her mum (Oh! The joys of life).

Both girls worked as nurses at Sandringham Hospital – busy emergency nursing where you are on your mettle …non-stop. Recuperating after injuries is essential for nurses – one cannot work with bones and ligament still mending. This ‘timeout’ was utilized by Kate in a way we celebrated – she volunteered as a barista in our Cafe Frida!

In the last months of her life Pamela could not walk. She happily sat in her high – backed wheel chair, eating in the dining room.  She was moved around to our new Room 11 where a ceiling hoist made it more comfortable for her to be attended to.  At each step along the way Pamela‘s daughters were fabulous. Where other families may be (understandably) upset and quizzical (and some put us through the hoops over the slightest issue) Pamela‘s daughters never pointed the finger or demanded answers. Their acceptance of the reality of aging and decline and that incidents occur where there can be no blame – just the challenge to manage the consequences – was a measure of their grace and generosity of spirit. I spoke about this graciousness to daughter Debbie recently and her comment ―..we are all nurses – if anyone understands it‘s us…‖. Such words and the affirmation behind them is one reason why this family touched us so much and also perhaps why Carolyn and I (independently of each other) visited Holmesglen where Pamela was transferred for management which became terminal care.

When I came into her private room late in the afternoon Pamela was pale and peaceful, breathing quietly. She was beautifully cared for, hair immaculate, sheets pristine. Andrea and Kate were perched on mattresses on the floor chatting and laughing. We talked of happy times and how this was a very apt passing – at a ripe age, family coming in and out, life going on around Pamela, the Matriarch, about to be called to another place in good time and ready.

Both girls gave thanks to Fairway ―there was never any doubt that mum would come to you. Fairway has the name as number one, working in ED we see the elderly come in from all facilities. Fairway residents were always well cared for, well-groomed and obviously given excellent attention, it stood out. We could not have asked for better nursing…

We hugged and I left feeling very privileged to have shared some golden moments on a golden afternoon.

Pamela died that night.

Kate continued to dispense love and coffee at Fairway. One day in need of the bean I swept into the caff and said ―Hello Beautiful Kate.‖ We both giggled as it‘s the name of a movie Rachel Ward directed some years ago. Her husband Bryan Brown (Breaker Mourant) starred in it – a complex tale of emotions in the remote outback.

We loved to talk of movies, books, Art. She loved Frida Kahlo and went to the photographic exhibition at Bendigo bringing back her impressions. She was a very knowledgeable, effervescent and cultured woman to have around; her style was evident in her colourful glasses and the Marimekko inspired dresses she wore so well.

The cheerful Frida Kahlo aprons those on cafe duty wear suited her to a ―T‖. They are so expressive and bright that it was hard to know where the fabric ended and Kate began. After my Xmas break I breezed into the cafe and asked Kate how her festivities had gone. ―well they were coloured by Andrea having a heart attack and emergency stent on Xmas day!

This rather took the wind out of my sails and completely kyboshed my paltry Xmas day stories. ―So young I said ―What a shock for you all.  I found it hard to take in actually; Andrea was the younger sister and had looked terrific at Pamela‘s wake only a matter of weeks earlier.  Knowing that she was fine and that the monitoring she will now have will ensure ongoing cardiac health, was some compensation for this extremely confronting news.

Kate was on holiday in New Zealand several weeks after this. She was with a friend having a great time. She had first bought a house, settlement not even through.  It was her friend who found her….

At 54 Kate suffered a massive heart attack and died in the next room, out of the blue, out of any reckoning…

Her wake is on Friday 8th March. Many will be there. There are no words… ―Goodbye Beautiful Kate‖.

Written with permission

Sandy May

We listen.
We respect.
We care.