What if the ambulance didn’t come?


I have fond memories of the Olive Devaud Residence, as do my children who grew up visiting Nana, in room 5. My mother was only 48 when she moved into the Olive Devaud in July 1972. She was the youngest resident, by far, to ever move into The Home, as she called it. But when life affords you only two choices –  to either change the situation or change your attitude towards the situation –  Mom was at the front of the pack in making choices and transitions. Ill health and the inability to live independently forced Mom to examine her options and in 1972 Mom was very grateful the Olive Devaud Residence had accepted her as a resident. She wasn’t a senior, but she was in need.

Although multiple sclerosis had claimed much of my mother’s mobility, it had not impaired her sense of empathy or gratitude, nor had it made her bitter or resentful. She was eternally grateful for the nurses, the cleaning staff, the kitchen crew, the doctors and nurses, her fellow residents and their families. One by one she befriended newcomers as they moved into The Home, helping them to orient themselves to their new surroundings. Mom knew who had family who visited and who didn’t have family. She bought small birthday presents for those she knew were truly alone and during the year saved up money, dollar by dollar, to purchase special gifts for the many residents who would be staying in for Christmas or Easter.

Mom’s name was Grace. She was full of Grace; sometimes my father called her Amazing Grace. She was a gentle person, someone who truly lived up to the adage, “If you can’t find something good to say, don’t say anything at all.” She faced poor health throughout her life but found little solace or time in complaining. She was grateful for what she had, she didn’t lament that which was lost. She lived a true “Christian” life and mentored her children through example.

As a young mom with three kids to tend I would sometimes turn to Mom for support or acknowledgement for the great job I was doing. Mom would simply remind me, “You’re not doing anything different than any woman who came before you or any woman who’s coming after you. Don’t spend this short time in your life complaining about anything. You don’t require accolades; count your blessings.”

I was thinking these thoughts last week as I took my place in the community room at the Olive Devaud Residence. More than 60 people had gathered to learn more about Housing Hope’s plans for the building. As we waited together it was hard to know who was onside with the project and who was against it. I was there to cover the meeting for powellriverdailynews but my heart and memory bank were drifting back a few decades, pumping out emotions. And as people started voicing their concerns about the project I couldn’t help but wonder what would Grace have to say about this?

Here we have an empty building, costing the Sunset Home Society more than $100,000 per year to heat, insure and keep secure. Powell River also has a small community of “homeless” people. Someone recognized a need and put the two together. Church groups, local residents, building supply stores and others have gathered, donated, renovated and cleaned up the facility to house six men who are in need of stable housing. I am counting the blessings.

Those who spoke against the project raised the issues of falling property values or possible drug and alcohol problems on site. While they conceded it might be the right thing to do, perhaps another neighbourhood would be better? They wanted to be heard as they brought up again the issues of plummeting property values or possible drug and alcohol abuse happening on site.   One fellow hearkened back to the many ambulances that came and went in the days when Olive Devaud Residence had more than 80 elderly residents. “We finally got rid of the sound of constant ambulances coming and going,” he said. “Now, what are we going to face, more of the same?”

And while I was digesting those thoughts I wondered was he talking about the ambulance that came to take my mother to the hospital and morgue the night she died? Was he talking about the ambulance that came to help Gino, a fellow resident, when he had his fatal heart attack? Sorry for the noise, but shouldn’t we be grateful that there are people who care, people to help? What if the ambulance didn’t come?


At some point in our life we will all need help. It costs nothing to extend the hand of kindness and empathy and it reaps huge rewards for everyone, it is also good mentoring. Together we can work towards solutions, even if the remedies might inconvenience some of us. We just have to realize when faced with a problem we can either change the situation, or change our attitudes towards the situation.

The situation is dire for some fellow residents who are living rough and are out weathering the cold right now. So what would Grace say to all of this? “It is very nice to meet you. Once you’re settled in I’ll drop by and visit. Perhaps we can walk down to the dining room together this evening and I’ll introduce you to some lovely people. Welcome to your new home.”

Opinion piece written by Drewen Young, daughter of Grace Goodfellow who passed away in 1995 after living at the Olive Devaud Residence for 23 years.

This entry was posted in News, Opinion piece and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to What if the ambulance didn’t come?

  1. marilyn penny says:

    Was so pleased to read your letter, I worked at OD from 1970-74 as LPN so knew your mum very well, she was a lovely lady and of course I saw you as a small child . I remember when she arrived and it was not and easy thing for her to have to do, but she was very brave and over the years all who knew her loved and appreciated all she stood for . Now I hope the residence can be used again for those that less fortunate. M

  2. Beth says:

    I had thought the gentleman who spoke was in favor of the project, noting that the ambulances were in some ways more difficult to live with – due to the noise – so actually more disruptive than the new project was going to be. Not that he was complaining about the ambulances either, just pointing out the housing project was relatively quiet. I know everyone remembers things differently so I could be wrong – I tend to put a positive spin on things 🙂

  3. Thanks Karen, funny how you’re never really without your parents’ guidance, no matter what age!

  4. Terry Powell says:

    well written, maybe some people should get over themselves, and try helping out, they might just find out that it feels good because its right. Merry Christmas to all

  5. michael stewart says:

    I hope all those nay sayers read this, Drewen. Your Mother sounds like an amazing woman! Thanks for this

  6. Elaine Steiger says:

    I think Olive Devaud would be happy that this building – which has served so many people – is still going to be used to help people rather than being torn down. If everybody thinks “not in my neighbourhood” nothing would ever be built. Life is what you make it and an ambulance siren, while disturbing when you hear it, is the sound of help on its way.

  7. Helen Lennox says:

    What a very touching article. Everyone deserves a warm place to live and sleep in safety. I think the use of Olive Devaud is perfect for this. I am sure Olive is smiling down in approval. Maybe instead of complaining about the sound of the ambulance, one could say a little prayer for the person who is need of it. Just sayin.

  8. Karen Wick says:

    I had the privilege of knowing your mom Drewen. She became very close friends with my maternal grandmother Annie Smith. Grace attended many, birthdays and family get togethers. She was a lovely and thoughtful lady. Thank you for writing this in her honor, I was touched.

  9. Kev says:

    I used to work there when it was “The Home” , I am sure Grace and Ms Devaud would approve.

  10. Norma says:

    I am pretty sure the gentleman who doesn’t like the sound of ambulances would feel differently if he was the one with the emergency…and property values? Really? I remember how people squawked about group homes for those with disabilities and even tried to block one or two of them for similar reasons. Does anyone have any doubt that these places are good neighbors today?
    This is an amazing story and Grace sounds like a remarkable woman. Thank you for it.
    Housing Hope is something we need because we as a society are failing so many of our citizens. My own hope is that it will become more than temporary housing and eventually serve more than six men.

  11. Donna says:

    Very well written, Drewen. Your mother sounds like she was a wonderful woman. Merry Christmas!

  12. moggiewestcan says:

    Great sentiments Drewen 🙂 Housing Hope will succeed 🙂

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