The Why of Respitality

By Gyneth Turner

I got a thank you email this morning; always an awesome start to my Monday.  It was from parents to say thanks for their Respitality night.  Again, I was floored to hear just how much a night away meant to them.  I mean it’s just one night, right?

Here’s what they wrote:

Dear Respitality,

I had the luxurious pleasure of staying at the Royal Scot Hotel & Suites Friday night with my husband through your Respitality program and I must say, I had the time of my life – it was up there in the top 5 fabulous nights of my life (including my wedding night).  What a great opportunity for parents to have that 1 night away – although I would re-name it from getting away from the stress of having a special needs child to “getting re-acquainted with your spouse night.”  My husband is a stay-at-home father during the day (so I can go to work full-time) and when I get home in the late afternoon, he goes to his part-time job.  So, my husband and I are either working or constantly worrying and/or caring for our son who has Angelman Syndrome and we forget to take time for his parents (us).  I just wanted to say a HUGE thank you for the opportunity.  It was such a treat!

Kind regards,

S & T

I sipped my tea and looked out my office window through the gold and green leaves of the Garry Oak outside.  It is October now and those leaves are falling; soon my view will include the little hilltops of Oak Bay and on a clear day, the snow capped peaks of the Olympic Mountains.  My pleasure in the letter was dashed when I answered my phone and spoke to Beth, another one of our lovely Respitality mums.  Beth had some sad news to share with me.  Another family had lost their sweet girl.  She passed away very early that morning from complications of her disability.  The moment I hung up the phone with Beth, the phone rang again.  I answered on auto-pilot, it was Jane calling to say her husband had just gotten his deployment details; he would be leaving in two days, four days shy of their Respitality night.  I made a note to cancel the reservation and told Jane to call me and let me know when she wanted to re-book.  Jane was disappointed but stoic, as always.  They had planned to celebrate their 10th wedding anniversary.

My thoughts drifted back to the heart broken mum who held her daughter’s hand as she died this morning.  I reflected on how so much of my experience with our 500 families was like this, a heart-warming note from a parent to tell me how much they had enjoyed their Respitality stay, a light-hearted chat with mum to give her the confirmation number for her hotel stay while her kids giggle and squeal “Muma Muma” in the background, and then the heart-breaking phone call from a parent about their marital separation, a reservation cancelation due to a child’s surgical date – the sixth that year, and the worst call, to share the news of a fragile child’s death.

Humans are born to ask WHY, in fact, it is practically the first thing little ones say when they have the language to do so…WHY WHY WHY?  Adult humans become reconciled to the fact that many of our WHY questions go unanswered.  I am lucky – I get my WHY answered all the time at work.  I never wonder why I do what I do or why it matters.  Every thank you note, every phone call, every email answers the question – Why Respitality?

You see, Respitality is more than a complimentary night in a hotel.  It is an uninterrupted dinner with the partner you love who finally has a moment to tell you they love you too.  It is a quiet space to grieve. It is an opportunity to celebrate special milestones like wedding anniversaries.  It is an expression of caring from the PEOPLE behind the hotel donations, like June Dagnal at the Fairmont Empress and Joan Zimmer at Chateau Victoria.  It is a reminder that everyone should have some sweetness in their lives, and when life is so bitter, Cridge Respitality is a community that holds your hand and cries with you for your loss.