“Today we are here to talk about peace my brothers and sisters”. He asked us to look past peace as a means to describe a lack of war or battles, but to focus on peace within our hearts. He asked us each to pray for peace within our own hearts and for peace within the hearts of others. And that is exactly what I did.Read More
A bustling building full of people, hallways, lights and learning. The first and only planned appointment of this past Tuesday was in the late morning with the unforgettable Lori Ives-Baine, (RN, BScN, MN (CPB) Grief Support Coordinator, PACT, Pathways Grief Support Program) Hospital for Sick Children (Sick Kids) in Toronto. Lori is a lifeblood of the hospital and has been working there for almost 30 years. As I waited in the hallway for her to find me I realized I had no idea what she looked like or how I would recognize her. I messaged her that I was wearing black (common suspect) and she messaged back I couldn’t miss her. She was a bright rainbow of colourful hair, wrapped in a brilliant fuchsia scarf, with an inviting smile on her face.
We didn’t have long, but in the hour we spent sharing stories and talking about some difficult subjects, we were both able to have a brief glimpse into each other’s worlds. Lori is another heroic member of society who shows up everyday to support families at The Toronto Sick Kids. As a nurse, Lori found herself gravitating towards caring for critically ill children and their bereaved families. She has been working in grief and bereavement for 25 years of her career with the majority in the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) . Over time the bereavement program grew beyond the NICU, extending to other units and then across the entire hospital, which Lori has now been supporting for the past five years, so that everyone that has lost a loved one can have access to the same support, compassion, dignity and care. Her talents and work in this area have brought clinical expertise, programs and processes to the various units throughout the hospital. On some days, her compassionate care program extends beyond the hospital walls to reach and support children who were formerly Sick Kids patients but may have passed elsewhere.
When I began to ask Lori questions I shouldn’t have been surprised by her brief but impactful answers. Her knowledge and expertise were evident. She shared of the beautiful and varying memorial services the hospital hosts throughout the year. Thoughtful gatherings from releasing butterflies at picnics to hospital wide candlelight celebrations. It made me glad to know that for a moment these families would be part of something so special as they courageously celebrate the life of their lost little loves surrounded by others that have walked their path.
What would a typical day look like for you? I asked. To which Lori replied “there is no such thing as a typical day. They are all different”. When she reflected on what her high level plan is for everyday she shared that “her job is to make sure that the parents have no regrets at the end of the day.” A powerful and touching response that struck a chord deep within me. She shared her hopes that if her job is done right “parents are aware of all the options” and have the ability to make the hardest decisions of their lives. Whether it be “one last walk in the park or having a TV brought in to watch one last hockey game together” Lori works hard to make sure she can help these families to the best of her ability. She smiled as she shared that “LOVE” is the most common theme across the families, “a love so strong that they can let them go”. She also shared, with great respect, the RESILIENCE she sees in all of them.
As her phone was going off, she apologized for the abrupt but necessary departure. I was grateful for every minute and felt a little guilty for stealing her time. As we quickly finished our coffee, tea and said our goodbyes, the grave reality of a day in the life of Lori set in. As I was heading out for an unknown afternoon, Lori was making her way upstairs to meet with the medical team to deliver the news to a long time family that end of treatment was near. My heart just sank and again I felt the shock and isolation of knowing another precious life was about to be lost while the cafeteria and hallways bustled with noise. It was only noon, but this was not the first loss of the day. Lori did not share names, places, or any details further than I have shared here but with that sliver of information I left Sick Kids with a heavy heart and a racing mind.
As I left the doors of the hospital, my afternoon took a path I hadn't planned nor ever expected. Stay tuned for PART 2, where I share a beautiful twist of events that lead to a very synchronistic day.
Countless grieving families know Patti Walker as a gentle, talented and compassionate caregiver. What some might not know is that Patti’s path to supporting others has been paved with multiple tragic losses, both of the families she supports and of her own.Read More
“I have to say that I remember every moment of that day. A perspective that is uniquely ours as a privileged care team that wanted so much to hold space for your beautiful family. As a team, we held each other up with hugs, and long pauses, stares deep in to one another’s souls as we carried forward in caring for your beautiful family knowing that each moment is so so precious. Wanting our care and compassion to shine light through the cracks in your broken heart so as to illuminate the beauty, the grace and the love that is present in what feels like darkness. What I want for you to know is that we remember. “Read More
All of the training, knowledge, skills, experience, processes, tools and faith can only begin to prepare health care providers for days that end in the indescribable. The days that have them eye to eye, with frightened, broken and devastated parents as they must relay the news that their precious child is not going to make it home.Read More
There sat a copy of "The Runaway Bunny” next to his hospital bed. The story I once loved now filled my heart and mind with great fear and sadness. I tried to be strong and get through the words for my son, but with each line I had to fight back tears. For the place my little bunny was going, this mother was not able to follow.Read More
Focusing on what we are in the moment versus what we have been in the past can be difficult. Will the next stage feel better? When will the worrying stop? If we make it this far, are we safe? But what if?
Pregnancy after loss can be a very anxious experience and often difficult to manage the swing of mixed emotions. Taking moments to focus on the present reality and breathe are little techniques that can provide some simple reprieve along the way.Read More
I wished there was some kind of way to instantly transport me to families, so I could just hold them after the loss of a child. I didn’t know what I would say but I knew that in these situations sometimes a quiet embrace from someone who has been through it could shed a ray of light and comfort in a very dark time.Read More
From the sweetest lullaby to the most heart-breaking lyrics. Every time I got close to the end of the song I would almost break down in tears, feeling nauseous and afraid. Now I was singing not only to Marshall but to God. “Please don’t take my sunshine away”.Read More
The bravery and courage of Aidan and his teacher turned out beautifully. It is a difficult subject but it is true, real and important.Read More