Robin Shillington sits peacefully in his room at The Salvation Army Agapé Hospice in Calgary. He glances out his window, the soft morning light illuminates his face as he turns and smiles, “It’s this month that I’ve known my wife for 50 years, and we’ve been married for 48 of them.”
Robin grew up in Belfast, Ireland. As a young man, he travelled to Singapore where he met and fell in love with Helen. He convinced her to move back to Ireland, and for a while, life was good. But after some time, Helen became increasingly concerned for their safety due to the unstable political climate in Belfast.
“Mistaken for someone else, people were shot in the street,” recalls Robin. “It was very sad.”
The idea of a safe and secure new life, one with economic promise, motivated the couple to immigrate to Canada in 1967. However, the move wasn’t without challenges. Helen came to Canada immediately, but Robin was unable to immigrate because he failed a medical exam. An x-ray showed a shadow on one of Robin’s lungs and doctors feared it was Tuberculosis. Fortunately, it was a scar left behind from a case of pneumonia that Robin had contracted as a child. After four long months, Robin joined Helen in Eastern Canada.
After three years of working in Eastern Canada, Robin and Helen made their way to Alberta. Robin began a career in Alberta’s booming oil and gas industry. They settled in Calgary, where they raised their two children.
Recently Robin faced some tough decisions after finding out he was diagnosed with an incurable lung disease. He says he’s grateful that his daughter arranged for him to come to The Salvation Army Agapé Hospice, where his wife and family are close by.
Dealing with the end of life experience is incredibly hard for individuals and their families. Robin claims to be at peace with the process, and part of that is due to the staff and volunteers who work at Agapé.
“Coming here has been a wonderful experience,” says Robin. “Staff are upbeat, love their work, and can’t do enough for us. I feel pampered and spoiled.”