We are all just walking each other home. - Ram Dass

Healing Hearts: Atcheson Family

My name is Abbey Clair, and I am the Executive Director for the Aroostook Hospice Foundation, owner of the Aroostook House of Comfort. I have grown accustomed to managing our social media and other publications, sharing the brave and inspiring testimonials of others who have been impacted by hospice and the Aroostook House of Comfort. Today, I come to you as a daughter and a caregiver with my own story.


In June of 2017, I was in my third trimester with my first baby and the first grandchild. It was a time of excitement and expectation. Unfortunately, that time was harshly interrupted by my father, Ken Atcheson’s colon cancer diagnosis. We took this on positively, with an understanding that it was stage one. Several months later, at the end of my maternity leave, we learned that the cancer had metastasized to his liver, resulting in a stage four diagnosis. We knew then that there would be no “cure,” but there could be time, and our time surely would not be wasted. For me, the grieving process started then, and I knew that I would not have an 80-year-old father to sit on the porch with and reminisce. That wasn’t part of the road God laid for us, and I will never have an answer to that, but just as we had to choose joy on many days, we also chose to trust in His promises.

Over the next five and a half years, my father bravely battled cancer. This journey included two liver resections, three stent placements, multiple biopsies, scans, numerous rounds of chemotherapy and immunotherapy, and radiation therapy. While cancer was certainly a significant part of all our lives, it did not define us. My father met both of my children; he was the first visitor in the labor room for each of them. Our family had six beautiful vacations on the coast of Rockland, many family dinners, birthday parties, pre-k graduations, holiday celebrations, lawn mower rides, and countless simple day-to-day moments of love and joy. We have so much to be thankful for, and I cherish these memories, these imprints on my heart, and his impact on my life. My Dad truly lived until he could no longer “live,” even putting my daughter on the school bus just four days before his passing.

We knew that one day the time would come for God to call him home. Upon accepting this position at the Aroostook House of Comfort there was an unsaid, shared knowledge that Dad would likely be there one day. When it became clear to Dad, our family, and his care team that treatment options were exhausted, and so was he, we turned to the Northern Light Home Care and Hospice team to guide us through the final leg of his cancer journey. Dad was admitted initially at home, but his condition deteriorated quickly. After a traumatic fall at home, Mom and I were anxious about how we would continue to care for him, to preserve his dignity, and keep him comfortable. We were no longer the wife and daughter; we were his caregiver team. Our minds raced with thoughts about medications being due, bed repositioning, eating, drinking, toileting, how would we do this? The answer truly was that we couldn’t. We reached out to the hospice team and secured a bed at the Aroostook House of Comfort. We were able to share this plan with Dad, and he was at peace, acknowledging his understanding. The ambulance crew gently transferred him out of the house by ambulance to the Aroostook House of Comfort.

Arm in arm, Mom and I entered in, shedding our roles as caregivers and reclaiming our identities as mother and daughter. We were greeted by a volunteer and guided to a quiet waiting space. The provider sat with us after evaluating Dad, ensuring he would be cared for and kept comfortable in a way we could not guarantee him at home. Upon entering his room, he was tucked in under a beautiful quilt, the sun shining across his face. Our extended family and friends were able to join us to be with Dad and gather in the kitchen and dining room. We shared lunch and coffee together, finding ourselves able to laugh over special memories with Dad. We were able to just sit in the stillness, hold his hand, say all the things, cry all the tears and pray. Nursing checked on us often and spoke to Dad. They educated us on each step of his dying process, what was happening, and what to expect—he was fully at rest. In the quiet evening hours of February 4th, we walked Dad peacefully into the arms of Jesus. While I wish I didn’t have to do this so soon, I am forever grateful for the love and kindness shown throughout our entire experience at the Aroostook House of Comfort. Thank you to everyone who touched our lives and who will continue to bless those in this community through their experience at the Aroostook House of Comfort.