Preserving Memory One Trace at a Time
For 20 years now, The Lighthouse Children and Families has been committed to celebrating life and to preserving the memory of children who left too early, thus supporting families facing the unfathomable. Indeed, it is not in the order of things to see a child go, but this sad reality is part of nature. Since it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to accompany this child to the end and support the family through it all. To achieve this, The Lighthouse is guided by its North Star: the idea that memory is cultivated every day. This approach aims to bring struggling families to experience and capture magical moments with their children. As precious traces of special moments, these images make memories resonate through time, thus preserving the family identity despite the passing of a child.
To mark National Hospice Palliative Care Week, The Lighthouse would like to share some of these vibrant traces.
Marie-Hélène Morneau, mother of the late Audréanne Tremblay, who gives her birthday as a gift to support the Lighthouse.
Today is a very special day. My daughter Audréanne, my angel, who would have been 7 years old to the day, left us too soon. On May 17th, I will reach a new milestone in my life, my 40th birthday. For this special occasion, I want to lift the spirits and warm the heart of the parents who had to face the death of their child, those who live every day with a sick child and those, who one day, will have to face the unacceptable.
During Audréanne’s (short) lifespan, we had services provided by The Lighthouse Children and Families. I cannot describe it as a house of death but rather a house of love and life. When you enter The Lighthouse, yes, it's sad, you feel a pinch in your heart, a sense of injustice, but also a sense of well-being and peace. It is not only a hospice but also a respite house for families. They provide this service to exhausted parents by offering 30 days stay per year for the sick child and by taking care of the symptoms, and the end of life.
We stayed at The Lighthouse during the last week of Audréanne's life. The staff took good care of her so she would not suffer, and volunteers took care of Vincent, who was still far too young to understand what was happening. While we were at her bedside, we would give her so much love without having to worry about attending to her basic needs. A music therapist came to play guitar, she had a massage, we made our footprints in a plaster mold, my family came to say a last goodbye ... Nonetheless, it was beautiful.
The Lighthouse will forever be a cause that is dear to my heart. Reaching my goal would be the most beautiful gift. Thank you all from the bottom of my heart.
Jacqueline Tremblay, grandmother of the late Isaac
Last December, a storm of unprecedented violence hit our family. We learned that our little man Isaac had been diagnosed with brain cancer, to be more specific a "diffuse brainstem glioma".
Since the diagnostic, we are walking this path together, with Isaac and his family. There is Julie, my daughter whom I am so proud of, François, a doting father and a great support and finally, Antoine a caring big brother whom we try to surround with love.
I would like to introduce you to Isaac. I want you to know him “as he is” living in my heart despite the devastating effects of the disease on his body, and brain. This horrible disease can’t and will never destroy the Isaac who lives in me.
Meeting Isaac is like meeting a little happy-go-lucky boy, with a lot of energy. And given his well verbal facilities, he can easily exhaust you with his questions. Always having a ready reply, Isaac is a funny little man, very lovable, however, the gentleness also coexists with deep anger. Isaac has the ability to express his gratitude. He knows how and when to appreciate your presence, or the little attentions that you give him. My older sister claims that he is an old soul: is that the reason why he is being taken away?
I want to thank you, the angels of The Lighthouse, for all the care you give to Isaac, and for the support and attention you give to his parents, and to his older brother Antoine. They will be able to maintain their energies while trying to walk peacefully through the storm.
Evany Chaput 11 years old, sister of the late Xavier Chaput
The Lighthouse allowed me to live the last moments of my brother Xavier's life with my family. The welcome is warm and the environment is well adapted so that I feel at home. The workers gave me a better understanding of grief and encouraged me to face the challenges at my own pace and in my own way. When it was too difficult, they allowed me to escape with multiple activities such as swimming, crafts, films, music and discussions. At the beginning of the school year, they inspired me to make a presentation on my brother and The Lighthouse in order to be better understood by my classmates. I have become very attached to the staff and I feel that they are still there for me and my parents during the more difficult days. I thank them for making a difference for me in this ordeal and for helping me build my own toolbox. The Lighthouse is like a second home to me. ❤
Annie Bahl, mother of the late Ulric and participant in the grieving mothers support group
Through an adult’s eyes, you only see obstacles and that's why it’s so difficult and painful to see a sick, cancer-stricken or dying child. Yes, it is!!! But the sick child is still sailing, and most importantly, he or she is the captain who decides how to navigate through the storm. Sometimes after a big storm, there is death, the end, and the pain of a bereaved parent.
The Lighthouse, (with the guidance of the mourning group) led by Marion and Antoinette, has provided a sacred space, a safe space, a space without judgment, a huge space where everyone was welcomed with kindness and love. This may seem simple to say, but this space has developed into an environment where you can leave the incommensurable isolation, pain, loss, injustice, disarray and suffering behind.
In the middle of all of this, there was our children and the love we had for each participant. The space allowed us to finally feel listened to, recognized, welcomed, considered, appreciated, accepted, surrounded and especially loved. We know that bereavement is a natural process, an ally and a gift that guides us towards inner peace and resilience, but the group helped by creating a safe space in order to deal with the process.
I accept my grief as it is, without blaming and judging. I nourish the forces of life surrounding me. And above all, I want to thank Ulric, my little adventurer, for the great and precious lessons he taught me. I am now walking on a path marked by Ulric's feet and by so many others that allow me to move on.
Donald Forest, the late Marie-Ange Forest's father
In honour of his daughter Marie-Ange, whom he tattooed on his heart, Donald Forest had a lighthouse tattooed on his arm after her passing. It is in all dignity that he shares with us the love he still has for his daughter, in the form of a visual testimony. A picture is worth a thousand words...
- Donald Forest's tattoo in homage to his daughter Marie-Ange
During National Hospice Palliative Care Week, The Lighthouse supports its community by participating in the Quebec and Canadian dialogue on hospice palliative and end-of-life care, contributing an essential pediatric perspective to support children suffering from a serious life-threatening illness and every member of their families. Preserving memory is certainly one of the ways in which social dialogue and exchanges are promoted and facilitated, so that families are supported by the strength of a large community. At The Lighthouse, memory is individual, familial and collective.