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.