Yesterday we had one of those moments we wish we didn’t have to have. We held a memorial service for a long time member of our staff. This quiet, unassuming man didn’t play a high visibility or leadership role. He was a member of the front line clinical team, one of the individuals whose days were defined by close and repeated interactions with the elders for whom we care. On a recent Friday afternoon, as he wished the elders and his colleagues a good weekend, he said “See you Monday.” But Monday, for him, never came.
We gathered in a room that was filled to capacity, the rear doors open so that those standing in the hallway could hear. More than 100 people turned out to honor him—elders, members of their families, staff, former staff and, of course, his family.
The service began with a song written and performed by one of his colleagues and for an hour we came together and shared stories and memories, tributes and music. We learned things about this man that we didn’t know. We learned about his outreach to new staff, we learned about the way he embraced people and their families, we learned that, in his quiet way, he had touched everyone in that room and so many more.
When three of our elders spoke, the emotion was palpable. This was not a man who helped them or a man who just provided care. This was a man they called “friend” and even described as feeling like “a member of my family.”
I looked around the room at the intent faces, the damp eyes and I thought about how important it was that we came together to honor his life and his memory. This was the right way to truly recognize a person who shared his heart with our elders every day, by showing our love and grieving our loss.
We have the word “family” in our name. But days like yesterday demonstrate that family is not just a word. It’s the environment we strive to create, the values we want to live, the caring and compassion we bring and we share.