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When Life Will Have Said its Last Word

“When the Canadian Government decided to know more about the Canadian family, Mrs Nicole Marcil-Gratton was naturally called upon. For more than 20 years, this demographer has been interested in the family from the point of view of children. She insists on the fact that this is a story to pursue.”

It was in these terms that Mathieu-Robert Sauvé, a writer with Université de Montréal’s Forum newspaper, presented an important national study that Mrs Nicole Marcil-Gratton was working on in 1999. A story to pursue? That’s quite the foresight indeed. A professor of demography at Université de Montréal, Mrs Marcil-Gratton lead a fruitful academic career. Particularly interested in the subject of family, she focussed her research on trajectories and work-life balance in the perspective of children, as their experience was “no longer a long steady river” as she would put it in 2004, in the same newspaper. 

This keen attention to children would shine through in another one of Mrs Marcil-Gratton’s projects, which would go on to become the achievement closest to her heart. Teaming up with Mrs Michèle Viau-Chagnon, she undertook a project that would change things for thousands of people: consolidating The Lighthouse Children and Families as an organization and opening, in the Angus Shops neighbourhood, the Maison André-Gratton hospice where, for the first time in Quebec, children battling severe life-threatening diseases could receive personalised pediatric palliative care, benefit from respite stays and end-of-life care in a warm, home-scale environment.  

Responding to the urgent needs of the community, the Lighthouse’s Maison André-Gratton swiftly met with both conditions for success that Mrs Marcil-Gratton herself put forward during its inauguration on September 10th, 2007: “parents trust us to leave their children with us, and children want to come back to stay with us at home another time”.

Since its inception, the Lighthouse has admitted almost 700 children and families. Mrs Marcil-Gratton helped shield them through the unspeakable. “It takes an incredible greatness of spirit to bring to a child what could be a last smile, and to help parents see their child die”, said with emotion Prime Minister Jean Charest on June 17th, 2009, while appointing Mrs Nicole Marcil-Gratton and Mrs Michèle Viau-Chagnon to the National Order of Quebec.

Little more than ten years after its opening, the Lighthouse’s Maison André-Gratton continues to be that home that Mrs Marcil-Gratton referred to with hope and pride – it’s now home to hundreds of families across Quebec, families who are facing the fiercest storm and turning to the caring support of the Lighthouse.

Mrs Marcil-Gratton was a rock to her family and to the Lighthouse families. Passing away on June 16th, 2018, she leaves in mourning family members, many friends and a thankful community. Her legacy to Quebec will be honoured daily as the Lighthouse continues to help families, following the vision that she expressed during the Maison André-Gratton inauguration: “When life will have said its last word, parents and children will stay together in this house, living with peace and dignity the last moments of a child’s life.”