Life is Beautiful

“I can’t imagine going through this process without the amazing staff and volunteers that exist in that home (Roger Neilson Children’s Hospice). I really can’t put into words how much they mean to us,”

Tait’s mom, Emma Gofton

Tait was a 15-year-old boy with a deep desire to know, to love, and to help others. He also had the courage, at a very young age, to live on his own terms. He lived every day according to his life’s motto: “Life is Beautiful”. By embracing that philosophy, he was able to both live, and die, by those words. Roger Neilson Children’s Hospice helped him to live to his fullest by supporting his wishes and life philosophy.  

Diagnosed with a rare genetic condition at birth, when Tait’s illness progressed, he stayed at Roger Neilson Children’s Hospice every month or so to manage his symptoms and to provide respite to his family.

He quickly became a beloved member of our Roger Neilson Children’s Hospice family and as the end of Tait’s life neared, Roger Neilson Children’s Hospice staff did all they could to give him and his family cherished moments.

According to Emma Gofton, Tait’s mom, “Roger Neilson Children’s Hospice plays an evolving and anchoring role in our lives…we have a community and an extended family there, and it enriches the lives of everyone who knows and loves our kids.” Tait’s sister, Aislinn, also diagnosed with the same condition, received support from Roger Neilson Children’s Hospice until she transitioned to adult care after turning 19.

One of Tait’s dreams was to become a Walmart greeter. Roger Neilson Children’s Hospice staff worked with his family, CHEO Foundation and a local Walmart to make it happen. Walmart spared no fanfare, with the National President arriving to present Tait with the President’s Pin. Tait took part in the team huddle before the store opened, received the employee of the day certificate — and got to live his dream because we listened to what was important to him and made it happen.

Boy and man lying down with their heads touching

Looking to make friends everywhere, even in heaven

Early one morning Tait asked Roger Neilson Children’s Hospice Executive Director Megan Wright if she had time to talk to him. She cleared her calendar and made time to chat that afternoon, not knowing what he wanted to discuss.

That afternoon, at 2:00 p.m. he wheeled himself into Megan’s office in his power chair with his mom in tow. He asked Megan if she knew of anyone in heaven who might become his friend.

That was Tait, always wanting to make friends wherever he went. Together with our staff, Tait even planned his own funeral, deciding on every detail. Here was a teenager preparing for his death in his own way, on his own terms.

But before that, with the help of Roger Neilson Children’s Hospice and at the house, Tait planned and hosted a living celebration of life.  Again, he planned who would speak, and the food, and invited about 75 of his nearest and dearest family and friends.  And in that space, he told the people he cherished that  “I love you.”  He said goodbye to those he loved, in his second home, feeling secure and loved.

Tait felt so comfortable at Roger Neilson Children’s Hospice, that when he knew he didn’t have much time left, he told his family it was time to go to Roger Neilson Children’s Hospice. He wanted to spend his last hours there, feeling at home and surrounded by the staff members, friends and family he loved so dearly.

Tait died in 2019 and hundreds of people came to Tait’s funeral, one of the biggest our staff had ever attended, to celebrate his life. Tait had touched and impacted so many people by living a life where he shared his sense of joy, compassion, and fun with others.

“Rogers Neilson House isn’t about learning how to die well, it’s about learning to live your life as best as you can, for as long as you can,” said Tait’s mom.

Tait’s mom Emma says, “When people hear our story, they hear sadness and pain, but there’s great joy and beauty in these children’s lives because of Roger Neilson Children’s Hospice. It has added quality to our lives and has become our second home…We’re very grateful to Roger Neilson Children’s Hospice for all that they do and so thankful to the Ottawa community for supporting them.”

Together with Tait’s family, we continue to celebrate Tait’s life and legacy at Roger Neilson Children’s Hospice.  The olive tree in the Roger Neilson Children’s Hospice playroom was donated by Tait’s Endowment Fund. It is a reminder of Tait’s life motto that “Life is Beautiful” and that we should lead our lives with love and peace.

Tait and Aislinn loved to dress up and their family wanted to keep that spirit alive at Roger Neilson Children’s Hospice. They decided to donate a costume closet filled with outfits that bring joy and fun to the kids at Roger Neilson Children’s Hospice. It is a gift in memory of both Tait and Aislinn to help the children of Roger Neilson Children’s Hospice live a rich, playful and beautiful life.

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