in which we spend our anniversary at a children’s hospice.

October 20, 2013, Michaela Evanow, 16 Comments

Friday afternoon, we were all packed and ready to go. Ready for respite care at Canuck Place Children’s Hospice.

But not ready. We didn’t not expect our first visit to be on our anniversary weekend (our first scheduled visit was cancelled). And frankly, we didn’t know what to expect at all.

A few months ago we were told that we were accepted to the program because Florence has “a life limiting condition.”

Last year, this would have made me feel sick to my stomach. I would have rejected the help.

This year, I see the blessing. We welcome the helping hands, and we welcome the community that we have been thrown into. Because it’s okay. I no longer touch papers and forms relating to Florence’s health care with a ten foot pole. This is not who we are, and this is not what makes us up.

We are made up of Spirit and Love, of grace and determination. We are telling stories of the holy and the broken now, both hand in hand.

So, on anniversary day, we arrived at the house around 1:30, and started unpacking. I felt a bit uneasy, wide eyed and somewhat excited. Was I checking her into a hospital, was anyone dying, and why was everyone smiling? I relaxed a bit when I noticed her room was sparse. No monitors, no IV poles, nothing but a crib covered in a colourful patchwork quilt, lots of windows and peace. Not a hospital. People weren’t bustling around, everyone was calm, relaxed, easy going.

Canuck Place is a gorgeous heritage mansion in a very upscale neighbourhood. It’s very grand, with four floors, gardens, play areas, an elevator, a full running kitchen. It’s like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. The nursing station is situated on the second floor, where Florence and other kids sleep, and the families sleep upstairs in separate family suites. Our room was gorgeous, with beautiful stained glass windows, maybe 12 of them, surrounding us. We could see the tops of the burnt orange trees, lofty and magnificent outside the home.

canuck place respite

The biggest luxury of all, was that we didn’t have to cook a thing. We were fed breakfast, hot lunch and dinner everyday. It was a community affair, with nurses and volunteers, families and children, all filling their plates at the buffet table. We feasted on food, made with love, as we sat at great round tables, and spun the lazy susan to share the water and juice, the salt and pepper. It was a bit like being at camp.

canuck place hospice

canuck place garden

There’s also a school upstairs, with little freshly hatched chicks. There’s a room full of lights and white noise and bean bags, where kids can go to chill out. There are all sorts of creative rooms and activities to help kids learn and explore and develop.

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canuck place school

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When you first walk into the home, right behind the buffet, on the mantle there are pictures of children that have recently passed away. Their lives are celebrated at Canuck Place on a piece of construction paper, dotted with little cutouts of favourite animals, colors and activities, painted, sparkled, and of course, there is a smiling face of a baby, child or teenager, that will never grace this earth again.

Our first dinner there, I stared and stared, trying to wrap my mind around it all.

Mashed potatoes, peas and roasted chicken, I piled onto my plate. Comfort food. I stared into those eyes again, looked around. It’s grand here, it’s old here, it’s loud here. It’s not loud with voices, necessarily, but with memories. When I first walked up the pale green carpeted stairs, mug of tea in hand, up the grand staircase, past the burgundy and green stained glass, past the dark walnut railings, I felt the weight of it all, I felt the crushing memories of mothers and fathers before us. My mind felt like it was being pressed through a sieve, pressed but not crushed. How did we get into this club, that no parent wants to be a part of?

Oh, what these walls have seen and heard.

Oh, what grace and love flows through this place everyday.

Oh, what rest and rejuvenation is poured out onto tired parents.

It’s a place where there are stacks of books left behind by parents, coffee is always brewing, a cookie jar is always full of freshly baked cookies. It’s a place where volunteers from all walks of life get to know the respite kids, their quirks and favourite spots in the house. It’s a place where nurses love their jobs, and treat family with deep respect and care. It’s a place where everyone says hello, where you’ll find rolled up towels and face cloths on your bed when you arrive, and you won’t be able to resist making it your home away from home.

canuck place

canuck place playground

herb garden canuck place

Needless to say, we have a wonderful anniversary. Florence was left in the hands of the nurses while she slept at night, and Jason and I were able to get out and enjoy the ballet. On another afternoon, we walked all around the posh neighbourhood, down to the shopping district a few blocks away, quick to get hot coffees in hand. It was a delight, and it was a blessing and an enormous gift for parents…like us.

I am counting down the days until our next visit.

Now, if only we can convince Florence that no one will stab her with needles, that the nurses are kind and loving. She is obviously still very clingy and sensitive, and the mere sight of a new face, or a nurse, is enough to cause a fit of tears. But she is getting a bit more comfortable, slowly but surely, and she even found a volunteer that made her smile! I was ecstatic when the nurse told me this over the phone, to the point of tears actually. Florence is such a mama’s girl, but I so desire to see her reach out and make bonds with other people. So this is a big step!

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16 Comments

  • Reply mug up for Canuck Place: | Michaela Evanow December 2, 2013 at 3:20 PM

    […] our first visit to Canuck Place Children’s Hospice, I went to the mug cupboard for a hot cup of tea and noticed that the […]

  • Reply Charlene October 22, 2013 at 9:14 AM

    Beautiful Pictures. A life time of memories. Our family spent 4 years there with our daughter, Megan and they are some of the best times we shared as a family.

  • Reply Nelia October 21, 2013 at 9:33 PM

    Hi Michaela, although we have never met our stories of our beautiful girls are intertwined and so is the connection of mutual friends. We too, are a Canuck Place Family and your post so beautifully puts into words the beautiful peace that surrounds every inch of that home. Yes, home. It is unfathomable to think that a palliative care facility can feel like home…but yet it does. From the manicured garden oasis to the cookies and green mugs – Canuck Place will always hold a dear place in our hearts. I am so happy to see you have connected with them. I just know that your sweet Florence will flourish as did our sweet Gracie. Blessings on you and your family as you cherish each day and moment.

    • Reply Michaela. October 21, 2013 at 9:44 PM

      I just read through many of your posts and stories about Grace. What a mama you are, what a faithful lover of Jesus. It brings praise to my lips, not sorrow. The hope of heaven…
      Thanks for writing! Who are our mutual friends? 🙂
      xo

      • Reply Nelia October 21, 2013 at 10:38 PM

        A few mutual friends are Courntey DeGeest (we met at children’s), Kali G, Lisa Chapman, Megan Wylie, Denise Huzzey and few more wonderful ladies. Oh your sweet Florence brings such volumes of joy to my heart. Her eyes especially speak of the purest joy. You write so eloquently and truthfully. I am in awe of the strength you draw from Him as you savour your precious little lamb. Blessings on you and your dear faumily.

        • Reply Michaela. October 22, 2013 at 8:55 AM

          Wow! That’s a lot! So neat. 🙂 Aw, well I’d love to meet one day…I’ll be digging into more of your story soon. And if you’re every ready, or feel inclined, I would love, love to have your story on “this is motherhood {too}. Just a thought 😉

  • Reply Debbie Tuit October 21, 2013 at 9:14 PM

    Oh Michaela. I have driven by the place. It really is beautiful and tranquil. I was so blessed that you could enjoy it. The pics are amazing….especially of precious Flo. Love you all. Still praying! ps Happy anniversary!

    • Reply Michaela. October 21, 2013 at 9:36 PM

      Thank you for “still praying!” We are too!

  • Reply Sophie October 21, 2013 at 8:41 PM

    Happy anniversary!! Love the photo of daddy and Florence on the merry go round!! It sure looks beautiful there!

    • Reply Michaela. October 21, 2013 at 8:54 PM

      Oh it’s very lovely. Jay loved taking Flo on it 🙂 made me so so dizzy though!

  • Reply Margaret Westaway October 21, 2013 at 8:24 PM

    Lovely story, thank you for sharing. Have you heard of the sensory room in North Van? You can get a membership and take Florence there.

    • Reply Michaela. October 21, 2013 at 8:53 PM

      Hi Margaret, no I haven’t heard of it. I’ll look into it! Thank you.

  • Reply Janet Abele October 21, 2013 at 7:52 PM

    happy anniversary…. i love the sensory room also…….. love the love you show…….

    • Reply Michaela. October 21, 2013 at 8:54 PM

      Thanks Janet, there is lots of love to go around!

  • Reply TamaraG October 21, 2013 at 7:41 PM

    What a lovely anniversary it looks like you had.

    How did Flo like the sensory room with all the lights? I adore the photos of her with the little chickens.

    You are all in our thoughts and prayers. Enjoy the beautiful colours of fall together.

    • Reply Michaela. October 21, 2013 at 7:55 PM

      Thanks Tamara. She loved the room. It’s hard not to! We all did 🙂

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