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Brave on the Rocks

By: Rachelle Kennedy, Hospice Peterborough Facilitator and Volunteer

There was a biting cold and wild wind that was gusting off the shores of the great lake that day. The waves were wicked and relentless. It was as though all the pent-up coldness of the season had risen to unleash itself on the tiny beach. It was hardly the sort of weather that makes one want to ramble and beach-comb, but that was exactly what we had come there to do.

I had driven to the lakeside town to meet with Annie*, a 10-year old girl I met through Hospice Peterborough only a month earlier. Annie came to Hospice with her mom, in search of grief support after the death of her best friend, Lara*. Lara had waged through a lengthy battle with a rare form of cancer – a struggle that brought with it long stays at Sick Kids hospital, the amputation of her leg, and eventually the inability to speak. Annie was by her side every step along the way.

I have been continually humbled and amazed by the bravery of the children I meet through my work at Hospice. Meeting Annie was no exception. From our first session together, as we sat on the floor of the hospice library, surrounded by paper and pastels and shelves of books; as she walked me through her experience of Lara’s diagnosis and illness and death, it was clear that Annie was a brave heart. At ten years old she had made the choice to walk through the fear and the unknown that cancer brings; to brave hospitals, to push wheelchairs, to sit bedside. She chose to learn to name the disease that was killing her best friend, to talk about it and to face it. Even after Lara’s death, Annie was brave enough to want to reach out for someone to help her make sense of what she was feeling, what she had lost.

So, on that day I drove an hour to meet brave Annie on the beach in her hometown. The weather was wild but we were both feeling strong. With all the force of the wind against us, we struck out with faces down and hoods pulled tight, searching the blustery sand for smooth pebbles and ever-treasured sea glass. Annie wanted something physical she could touch or do with her hands to help calm her mind when it started to burst with grief, especially when at school. A stone in the pocket is a simple idea that can be surprisingly grounding. Rather than give her one that had no context or meaning, it felt right to search for one together in a place she could return to whenever she needed.

With our fingers turning frosty red and our cheeks whipped with wind, we paused only once from our pebble hunting, to stand side-by-side as close to the waters edge as we safely dared. I have learned that sometimes the unwieldy storms inside of us can only be outdone by the rugged wildness of the natural world around us. Sometimes turning my cold face to the blowing wind and crashing waves can bring a breath of calm to my unsettled mind. So, Annie and I stood face-to-face with the waves, and counted to three, and yelled together at the top of our lungs, trying to loosen some of the anger and sadness that settles in our bones, and release it to the billowing wind.

When our pockets were full and faces too cold, we found a bench with some shelter and spread out our beach-combed treasures: a mighty handful of smooth colorful stones, a generous trove of sea glass, and even one rare big pebble with a hole worn right through the center. Annie thought she might tie one to a string so she could wear it around her neck, have it with her all the time. I kept one for my pocket so I wouldn’t forget the brave and wild beauty of the day.

Hospice work is about many things – some of them practical, some of them painful, some of them incredibly challenging and exhausting. Too often, when people have learned of my work with children and hospice, they have responded by praising me for “being a good person”. If only they knew.

If only they knew what an honor it is to keep company with someone like Annie. If only they knew how humbled I am by her courage, by her willingness to trust; if only they knew how lucky I felt to stand beside her and yell into the wildness, knowing that the story she carries inside her is sacred and huge.

That time with Annie on the shore of the great lake was a potent reminder for me that sometimes courage is all about just showing up, and that maybe the strongest thing we can do some days is to not turn away from the wildness around us, but rather count to three and howl our story into the wind.

*All names have been changed for confidentiality

Raechelle Kennedy is a Hospice Peterborough Facilitator and Volunteer who has worked with our children’s grief group program for several years. She is an expressive arts practitioner and spends the winter months in Australia with her partner, writing and enjoying life down under. You may read more of her writings by checking out her blog http://www.blackbirdstudio.ca/?p=3167

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Foundation walls taking shape

Over the past two weeks, workers have been busy putting forms in place for the next layer of concrete foundation to be poured for the new building. A crane has been lifting baskets of the forms into the area where the workers remove them from the basket and put them into place. To me, the forms look quite high so it will be interesting to see how high they pour the concrete (I think next week). As part of this work they are also preparing to pour the elevator shaft which will extend all the way to the third floor of Heeney House. Things continue to take shape! See below for a few photos and a video. [showhide type=”post”]


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180 Degrees of Life

By: David Kennedy, Bereavement Coordinator at Hospice Peterborough

He stood in the chaos of boxes and paper – the reminders of the holidays that brought a trail of family and people into his house. Everyone was trying to make this Christmas better than it could be. “It’s over and I survived.” He spoke it slowly out loud not because anyone was there to hear it but as if congratulating himself.

It was true what his grief group leader had told him that the expectation can be worse than the reality. The worry and anxiety of this first holiday without his partner of 15 years had certainly brought more than its share of anxiousness and dread. But here he was – a survivor. It was not all easy sailing though. It is true that Christmas day passed without a major meltdown and in some ways it was great to have his siblings come and go that day. There were times of laughter and expressions of love that made him realize that he still had things worth living for. What he wasn’t ready for was New Years. In his mind, getting through Christmas was the challenge. He never really thought about New Year’s Eve. Oh not the question of what to do – he had all kinds of options given him. There were private family functions he was encouraged to be part of, there was the party from work that he was invited to and there was the regular gang that he and his partner had shared this night with for the past 10 years who had encouraged him strongly – perhaps too strongly, to join them again this year. Even the option to be alone and do nothing was there for him. No it wasn’t the question of what to do that caught him. It was only as he thought about it later that he realized why he was blindsided by this and so unprepared.

Jack had met his partner 17 years ago after each of them had come through a marriage breakup. His was bad enough, but his partner’s story was enough to fill a chapter in a therapist’s book and to pay for a house in the Caribbean for the lawyers involved. Neither of them had been looking for a relationship but when they met at a party of mutual acquaintances there was a spark that just wasn’t about to go away. They tried – both of them – both gun shy but the love they found in each other was finally the kind of relationship they had longed for. Two years later they made the commitment and the past 15 years have been without a doubt the happiest years for both of them. Then that dreaded “C word” and within 14 months here he was alone again, only this time the pain of being alone was almost unbearable. It had been 6 months since he had said goodbye to the love of his life. Six months and now he felt the obligation from others that he should be okay and that while Christmas would be difficult it should be manageable.

It was only on reflection that he realized the depth of the challenge of this season. Christmas was connected to the past – all the memories and shared experiences with his partner – the collective joys, laughter, tears, hopes and disappointments. They were shared with someone and now that someone isn’t here to share, to reminisce, to recall, to laugh and to remember. New Year’s is about the future, a turning of the calendar, the writing of new digits to reflect the new time frame and it is the fact of facing this New Year without that partner by his side, in his bed, creating memories – that he will have to live this coming year without his beloved partner – that is what blindsided him. He spent all his energy bracing himself for Christmas and the flood of memory that accompanies that holiday, but he wasn’t ready for the gut wrenching awareness of a new year to be lived alone. That almost did him in.

That is the journey of grief. When we are first thrown into the chaos of a person dying we are flooded with the memories, the experiences and the relationship that we had with that person, no matter if it was wonderful or dysfunctional. Grief for a while is looking behind us at that moment of death, that moment of ending of all that we had known. But grief is a 180 degree experience. Soon we find ourselves oscillating between the pain of what can no longer experience and the pain of “what now,” how can I go on living without that person here? Eventually and moments such as New Years, put that future right smack dap in our face and we are forced to look at the reality that I will need to live this year without that person here. Then the weight of this perspective turns our attention to now facing ahead. Every now and then we will need to look back and remember and so this back and forth of grief. Finding a healthy way to live and carry our grief will mean that we will always experience this 180 degree living to some extent.

In time we will find our way again and look ahead but it will always be accompanied by those times when we choose, or are chosen for us, to remember, be thankful and be sorrowful. Yet even in those moments we are reminded that we have life to live and that we can and we will, be open to all that life may bring with gratitude, grace and 180 degree perspective so we will never forget, but we will continue to live.

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Pouring concrete!

More activity on the site this morning. At 10:30 the “concrete pumping” truck was loaded up by mixing trucks and the concrete started to flow into the wooden foundation frames. In the fourth photo below, there is a worker on the left who has the remote controls around his waist – aiming the long arm of the pumper to where the other workers are spreading the concrete. The fifth photo is a close up of one of the propane (?) heating machines that will be placed near the tarped concrete when the pumping truck is done – keeping the concrete warm as it dries. Also see below for short video of the action. [showhide type=”post”]

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Northwest corner Heeney House demolition

A lot happening on the site in the past 48 hours!

When I walked by the site at 9am yesterday morning, workers were demolishing the concrete wall and tiny entrance-way in the north alcove of Heeney House. That felt dramatic to me. Then this morning at 9am, workers had removed the one-storey addition from the northwest corner of Heeney House…and by 2pm this afternoon the entire two-storey addition had been torn down! So…below you have a number of timelapse series of the demolition from a few different angles. There is also some video footage and  a slide show of photos profiling the House from a number of angles…dramatic! [showhide type=”post”]

In case that wasn’t enough, below there is also a photo of the new building foundation area. The large orange tarps are wrapped around the wooden forms that will hold the newly poured concrete. The tarps are sticking up because there is alot of rebar to help reinforce the concrete. At each end of the foundation are heating machines that will pump warm air into the tarped “tunnel” to keep the concrete warm as it dries. Not sure when the concrete will be poured but I’m guessing this afternoon or Monday. We promise to keep you posted.

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Preparing for concrete; inside work continues

Last week I interviewed Richard Johnston for our upcoming Hospice Highlighter newsletter. Richard is chair of the Every Moment Matters Campaign Building Committee and as a special treat, we conducted the interview inside Heeney House! See below for a few indoor photos I took of the soon-to-be multi-purpose education and dining room.

The room feels very big! It was interesting to see the old wallpaper and high ceilings, ceiling trim, etc. If you look at the December 8 photo of the old archway, those doors and wall have been removed and the archways are now sitting on the floor. The doors are being restored and will be re-installed at the end of the room as the doorway to a storage area. [showhide type=”post”]

Meanwhile outside, wooden forms have been placed into the foundation area along with rebar…waiting for concrete to be poured. In the photos below, some of the wooden forms are exposed and some are under tarps. If you want to examine a photo more closely, try clicking on it.

Education & Dining Room looking north – December 8, 2016

 

Education & Dining Room looking north – January 26, 2017

 

Education & Dining Room looking south – January 26, 2017

 

January 30, 2017

 

January 26, 2017

 

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Initial plumbing for new building

In last week’s post you can see green pipes starting to be installed in the ground for the new building. In this weeks photos, you can see that all the pipes are now in place. It’s interesting how each new construction development shows the future building footprint in a new way. In one of the photos below, you can also see the stakes recently put into the ground to mark where the new building will come right up to London Street. We’ve been taking photos from a number of locations around the site on an almost daily basis – the idea is to try out some time lapse slide shows to show construction progress from various angles. Where the new building connects with the Victorian home is one of those locations and it will be fun and interesting to watch the progress – stay tuned! [showhide type=”post”]

Thursday January 12, 2017

 

Friday January 13, 2017

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Foundation work continues

Happy New Year construction bloggers,

As you will see from the photos below, work on the foundation continues… [showhide type=”post”]

Friday January 6, 2017

 

Monday January 9, 2016 – photo #1

 

Monday January 9, 2017 – photo #2

 

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Building the foundation

With much of the excavation for the 10-bed care facility completed, the Mortlock crew are now leveling things off with supplementary soil. In two photos from George Dimitroff yesterday and one from me this morning, you can really see the footprint of the new building taking shape. [showhide type=”post”]

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