By Cecilia Nasmith/Today’s Northumberland
Ed’s House welcomed quite a crowd of visitors Wednesday for the dedication of its new Memorial Walkway.
Those invited included supporters of the original campaign behind Ed’s House (including members of the Building Committee), board members and staff of both Ed’s House and Community Care Northumberland, the Ed’s House Foundation and, most importantly, all the supporters who have commemorated loved ones with a Tribute Stone for the fundraiser.
Individuals and family groups slowly paced the walkway that traces the property’s gentle downward slope, poring over the stones to find that special one they had sponsored to remember someone beloved.
A message from Grief and Bereavement Co-ordinator Winnie Visser called the memorial walkway “a creative, courageous way to lean into your grief” prior to a moment of silent reflection to mark the dedication – “in honour and in gratitude for the individuals whose lives have made an indelible mark on our own,” Supportive Care Counsellor Karen Bellamy said.
Music for the occasion came courtesy of Don Owen, who volunteers for what Director of Hospice Services Sherry Gibson termed Music Moments for residents (on the big, beautiful back deck, weather permitting).
“It’s a great program, and much appreciated,” Gibson said.
She shared the definition of hospice care provided by the Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association – specialized services aimed at easing the suffering and improving the quality of life of those living with a life-threatening illness (as well as their families).
“Hospice care has been available free since the early 1990s, when the first volunteers were trained to support families caring for terminally ill loved ones whose wish it was to stay at home for as long as possible,” she said.
That was the Northumberland Lakeshore Hospice group – whose services were made part of Community Care Northumberland in 2010.
The service was enhanced in 2017 with the formation of the Hospice Care Community Team, which featured nurse-led clinical navigation, home-visiting volunteers, education, and supportive counselling (including grief and bereavement counselling) that served some 300 clients annually.
That same year, they were approached to gauge their interest in a building that would operate as a hospice facility. They “enthusiastically endorsed and approved” and 10-bed facility – of which six suites are current available thank to provincial funding.
Dr. Kate Everdell serves as their Medical Director, and they have supported 348 individuals since their doors opened in September 2020.
“I am confident we have met our goal of making Ed’s House a home-away-from-home for those entering out doors,” Gibson declared.
While the downstairs is largely occupied by offices and a large education room, the upstairs definitely has a homey feel, with a large living room that features a playroom corner ready to entertain the children. There’s also a smaller, more private space with comfortable furniture, a fireplace and a grandfather clock.
A large dining room can host family dinners, spacious enough for a bed to be rolled in. There’s a beautifully outfitted kitchen that also has a counter set aside for the snacks and drinks that are always set out.
Public washrooms are plentiful enough to be handy, and a big family bathroom offers a chance for a refreshing shower when it’s needed most.
A large back deck overlooks a beautiful back lot where, if you happen to be there early enough in the day, you can enjoy the twitter of the birds and the occasional sighting of a rabbit or other small animal. You can also look down on a good-sized screened gazebo at the end of a path leading from the garden to the south of the building.
The program included the recollections of the loved ones of Joanne Winter, whose final days were spent here.
“The staff and volunteers here are amazing, and they are what makes Ed’s House,” stated Sarah Clow, Winter’s daughter.
“The compassion, support and respect – not only to my mom but to her family and friends – was above and beyond.”
Clow travelled from Calgary, Alberta, to be with her mother, and had so many memories of so many things that made that time special – the cookies, the food, the chance for a shower when it was so badly needed, a playroom for the kids between visits with grandma (and plenty of popsicles), and even special cupcakes on St. Patrick’s Day.
“Even though these things are really small, they really do make a huge difference in the lives of people who are here,” she said.
Winter’s close friend Pauline Carr shared her own memories – as one of a group of 10 close friends who had been in constant touch since high school, getting together as often as they could, even organizing annual reunions.
“When Joanne found care at Ed’s House last year, the 10 of us travelled to Cobourg to visit her,” Carr said.
“The staff were amazing to accommodate our large group, especially during COVID restrictions.”
They held their gathering on the beautiful back deck – a little chilly, but warmed by the patio heater as well as the love and laughter.
The group leaped at the chance to purchase a stone in her honour. It carries the phrase she was known by: “In memory of Joanne Winter – in a world where you can be anything, be kind.”
Ed’s House Northumberland Hospice Care Centre Foundation Board Chair Lynn Hardy recalled how the Rotary Club of Cobourg had donated a $3,000 grant to help get Northumberland Lakeshore Hospice started in 1993. Later, Hardy was on the campaign team that helped build Ed’s House.
“This is an extraordinary community for care and for kindness – and that’s got to be the word of the day,” she said.
“Now we’ve got a new foundation, which is even more wonderful – to help with our community, to continue to raise funds for Ed’s House.”
Director of Donor Relations Joel Scott announced their newest initiative – Phase Two of the Tribute Stones project, 120 eight-inch-square stones to be made available at $300 each.
Scott said that close to 150 families last year had similar stories to share. And many of them have chosen to memorialize that time with memorial stones, which is also their way of ensuring this care will be available for families who need it in the future.
For more information, call 365-400-1592.