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Remembering Mrs. G

July 25, 2009

Two weeks ago, Mrs. G passed away after a short stay in hospital.  We were given a chance to remember her and tell stories at her Memorial Service.  Here are some of those stories.

We first met Mrs. G in 1987 when we were meeting families of folks who lived at Woodlands.  Spectrum Society had been selected by the government to move her son and three other people out of Woodlands to a community group home.  Mrs. G put us on notice right away that she had very clear ideas of what her son needed and she would make sure that we delivered.  Stories were shared by Woodlands staff of her tenacity and strong advocacy.  In fact, she had appeared on Jack Webster’s radio show earlier in the 80’s to talk about quality care for people with disabilities. 

We were a little anxious about what working with her and her son would involve, but soon found out that her intentions were exactly as stated – to ensure her son and his girlfriend were well cared for, were safe and were happy.  Since those were our intentions as well, we got along fine. 

 Once she decided that we were a part of her son’s life, we became friends and, as the years went on, something like family.  Mrs. G, tiny and honest and full of experiences that we couldn’t imagine, was a bit of a dragon – but now she was a dragon on our side.   We always knew where we stood with Mrs. G, and it was often just behind her, with her leading us and protecting us…  Telling us we were too thin when we had actually gained a few pounds and bringing us cookies to take care of that – the best cookies in the world.  She was the most practical woman ever, but she also had a certain magic… 

Mrs. G taught us a few important lessons.  She always valued and respected the staff who worked every day with her son.  She knew that if they felt valued in their work, they would stay longer and provide the excellent care she desired for her family members.   

We can’t imagine what it was like for Mrs. G to have had a son with a disability so long ago and it was a gift for her to share the stories about how she’d dealt with professionals and institutions, how she had gone week after week, made that long trip out to New Westminster, dealt with issue after issue…  Her stories were moving and inspirational and once she decided to make the leap into believing that her son could live in the community, she saw that the opportunity existed to now tell the truth, about anything and everything, and we could work from the heart.  Several times, we had Mrs. G come and talk to staff about her son’s history, and at the end of the sessions, there was never a dry eye.   

She taught us about remembering and exploring the family’s heritage.  In the late 90’s Mrs. G and her son, Aaron and another staff went on a grand road trip back to the Kootenays to visit relatives and explore the community where her son grew up.   The most important memories from this trip were the warm welcomes offered by all the relatives who had not seen them for so long, but equally strong memories remain of the great food that was served… Borscht, perogies, cabbage rolls, home baking.  Later, after returning home, recipes were shared and Borscht  and Perogy cooking days arranged.   

 My fondest memories of Mrs. G are her big smiles and hugs for my girls when they attended events or parties.    She loved seeing Susan’s boys at our events and watching them grow, year after year.  When Aaron and his partner adopted a child, she heard about it through the grapevine and was one of the first people to show up with a toy to welcome him into the big extended family that she created.  She did the same thing with the staff who came with her son and girlfriend for holiday dinners over the years; she welcomed them and was there for them.  

 Over the years, Mrs G asked some of the best questions about what we do in our work and how we support people… She did not tolerate shoddy work, but she graciously accepted an apology and was always ready to move forward, and usually had some helpful ideas about what to do next.  She was a huge source of strength for us and her character and principles are part of what has made our agency what we are and part of what’s made us who we are.

Thank you Mrs. G for all you have taught our organization about the importance of family and friends. 

We will remember you as a friend, a fighter and as family.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Ernie Baatz permalink*
    July 25, 2009 1:17 pm

    And after posting this, I have to point out that this is my job – to meet and become family with some of the most amazing people in the world…. What a job!

  2. Sam Davison permalink
    July 25, 2009 1:30 pm

    Great story Ernie. Good morning.

  3. Ernie Baatz permalink*
    July 25, 2009 1:54 pm

    Good Morning, Sam. 30 minutes goes by pretty quick – I’m just getting the 7am post ready to go (and made a pot of coffee and let the puppy out for her morning rituals…)

  4. July 25, 2009 4:30 pm

    wow, that’s a great start to the 2009 blogathon! it was such a gift to know her…

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