Five years ago, when Matthew’s House first opened its doors, the first child that we welcomed was Kylie Newton. That December her parents, Brenda and Ian, were looking forward to going to a movie with their son, Sam, going to a staff Christmas party, and just getting an uninterrupted night’s sleep.
As they reflect on the five years since then, their eyes fill with tears – tears of gratitude: grateful for the opportunity they’ve had to receive quality respite care for Kylie and for their family.
“Matthew’s House has been as much for us as it has been for Kylie,” Ian says. “It allowed us to have complete peace of mind, otherwise you’re always trying to find someone who is able to give the kind of care that Kylie needs and wondering if she’ll be okay.”
As Brenda reflects on her experience, she tries to express how deep her need for respite has been.
“Ours is a mental health story,” she says. “When we first came to Matthew’s House, we were done. I couldn’t make the simplest decisions, like deciding whether to have coffee or tea. You don’t realize how irrational you are when you’re physically and mentally exhausted. I was just finished.”
Matthew’s House changed all of that. Ian says, it helped them get back to living their lives. Brenda’s scrapbooks attest to some of that. Albums commemorating vacations show a family enjoying holidays in a way that would not be possible if Kylie couldn’t have stayed at Matthew’s House for an extended time. The fact that Brenda had uninterrupted time to put these albums together, something that she truly enjoys, also speaks to the way that respite gives parents a chance to enjoy simple pleasures that the rest of us take for granted.
“Unless you are a parent of a child with special needs, it is difficult to understand the effort it takes to provide, care for and raise such a child,” Ian says. “Matthew’s House understood.”
The Newtons have deeply appreciated the way that the staff at Matthew’s House have shown their care for Kylie.
“As cliché as it may sound, Matthew’s House truly embodies the spirit of ‘it takes a village to raise a child’,” Ian says. “The staff members do more than provide the necessary care that Kylie needs, they do it with genuine love and affection. And we’ve come to know other families who really understand us because they’re living with the same challenges.”
This December, Kylie will be the last child to receive respite care at Matthew’s House, whose services will change in the New Year and become a transitional home for youth who live with complex care needs. A lack of core funding has made this change necessary and as the only respite home of its type, it will be a deep, unreplaceable loss for family care in the Fraser Valley.
While the prospect of losing the respite care on which they have come to rely weighs heavy, Ian and Brenda are exploring other options and are looking forward to Kylie’s last visit. They will spend that time much like they did five years ago: enjoying simple family pleasures, knowing that their daughter will be safely and lovingly cared for.
“We have come to love and appreciate the gift of patience and recovery that Matthew’s House has provided and we know we share the voice of many other families when we say how deeply we will miss you,” Ian says. “Thank you for everything you’ve done and being a significant chapter in our lives. You will never know the true impact you have made and the families you have saved.”