Honouring the memories of those we lost

April 2021
Laurie Pringle, Director, Communications and Engagement, Shalom Village

To say the past year has been difficult would be the understatement of the century. Regardless of who you are or where you live, your life has been affected by COVID-19. Shalom Village is no different. The past year has taken us through so many ups and downs, that a roller coaster ride would’ve been more serene.

Like you, we have endured stress, sadness, frustration, humility, fear, anger, grief, heartbreak and more. On the other hand, we have also witnessed remarkable courage, resilience, generosity, kindness, compassion, and even joy. On some days, we cycle through these emotions as quickly as a roller coaster rises and plummets. It is dizzying and exhausting. 

As you can imagine, caring for seniors in this environment results in sleepless nights, and worrisome days. Thanks to the wonderful scientists who worked tirelessly to develop vaccines, we now stand at the precipice of what we hope will be a period of recovery, joy, and celebration.  As we, and the world prepare to move on from the pandemic, we know that first, we must acknowledge the pain and loss that each of us has experienced. 

As many of you know, during the recent outbreak, Shalom Village lost 20 residents to COVID-19. Some of our staff members are also mourning loved ones lost to the pandemic. At the same time, family members of residents who passed away from other causes during the outbreak, mourned the passing of their loved ones without the support we typically provide to families. 

We also wish to acknowledge our staff, many of whom have built deep, meaningful relationships with the residents they care for, and haven’t had a moment to address their own grief and mourn their loss. We know that many of you may feel alone, or you may be struggling to deal with grief, or other emotions resulting from pandemic related loss, or isolation. To address this, Shalom Village will host a two-part memorial to remember all those we lost during the outbreak.

The first part of the memorial will take place in early April online, and feature video tributes to the remarkable people (whose families have agreed to participate) we lost during the outbreak.   Our goal is to ensure that they will be remembered for all the uniquely wonderful contributions and characteristics they gave to each of us and to the world.

If circumstances allow, we will hold the second part of the memorial in the summer, when we will dedicate a memorial garden in honour of those lost during the outbreak.  The “Lock in Your Love Garden” will enable people to reflect on the lives of their loved ones and leave behind something to honour their memory. Like the lovers’ bridge in Paris, the garden will contain a structure where loved ones can secure a lock, ribbon, or other small item amid the flowers and trees. 

We hope that, by the summer, the pandemic will be in retreat, so that we can bring our little village together for the dedication, as a way to repair our world and move as one into the future. We envision the dedication ceremony to be a celebration of life, renewal, and with a little luck, a future without COVID-19.  We hope it will be safe for you to join us, as we reflect on the past, and renew our spirits with optimism, hope and joy.

Our village is made up of a diverse group of people who come together to support the seniors who call Shalom Village home. Our seniors, their family members, staff members, donors, the Jewish and Greater Hamilton communities have steadfastly supported Shalom Village throughout the pandemic. You have held us accountable, while also lifting our spirits. You have donated. You have brought signs to remind staff of your gratitude. You have shared your thoughts, fears, and grief with us. You let us lean on you when we needed balance—and thanks to your steadying influence and support, we are once again standing on solid ground.

We are here to work on your behalf to provide care, compassion, and a better life for the seniors who depend on Shalom Village. And it is in that spirit that we call upon our community to come together to remember,  comfort, and celebrate a new future. 

The saying “it takes a village” has become a cliché, but here at Shalom Village, we know that it takes a village to build, sustain and support our community. You have done all these things and more for our seniors, and we want this garden to recognize our glorious village in a meaningful way.

Due to the pandemic, we will not be hosting a Hustle 4 Health this year.  In lieu of an event, we would like to invite you to consider supporting our Lock in Your Love Memorial Garden, when we launch the campaign in spring. 

We can’t think of a better way to remember those we have lost, and to honour all those still with us. We hope you agree, and we look forward to working with the community to bring the Lock in Your Love Memorial Garden to fruition. Perhaps, together, we can find triumph in the face of tragedy by creating a beautiful space that celebrates life, love and the village that made it possible.  Further details will be shared as we finalize arrangements and speak with family members. 

Photo caption: “Love locked in” is a daily reality at Shalom Village as is apparent in this 2019 photo of resident Pat Procter enjoying a moment with staff member Emma Villanueva.

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