Summerside, P.E.I. - A Christmas tree glows with special lights of remembrance in the middle of the Summerside Superstore foyer.
In its shadow sits Lorna Jenkins, a volunteer with the annual “Let their Light Shine” Hospice P.E.I. campaign. She invites the public to symbolically remember and reflect on a loved one by placing their name on a card and by turning on a tree light in their memory.
“The tree is a great way for people to come and put a light on and remember someone very special,” she said.
Jenkins volunteers her time and energy to provide care for people at the end of life, through hospice, as well as support their families, but she, too, has experiences on both sides of the fence.
“It’s a very special thing and it’s very sad because you don’t want to see someone going through this. So to be able to give (the families) a little break once in a while gives them a chance to take care of themselves and treasure their memories.
“But I also lost my brother when he was turning 20, and I wasn’t too much older. I’ve lost some very special friends, as well as my mom, so you really know what people are going through. My daughter-in-law is also very sick and I see what my son is going through, and they’re in British Columbia,” she said, with tears in her eyes.
Jenkins’ patients have spanned in age from two to 90, but one in particular pulls a heart string.
Nancy Lyle brought her little grandson, Cohen, to place the first light on the Christmas tree in Superstore. Jenkins visited Nancy’s husband, Garth, and their family while in hospice.
“Lorna Jenkins was so kind and would give us a break for something to eat, and had she not been there, I don’t know how I would have gotten through it all, especially at the end, asking who I needed to call. She was just wonderful, and the work that hospice does is just wonderful,” said Lyle.
Jenkins acknowledged that seeing Cohen instantly brought her back to a couple of years ago when she first met the Lyle family.
“Cohen was just a few months old when I first met him. I remember the love and pride on Mr. Lyle's face when his family came into the room. Garth was so proud of his family and they were so supportive to him.
“Hospital staff and volunteers see this many times because those kinds of visits are positive to both the sick and the family or friend. For the patient, it is not so much a diversion from their pain or sadness as it is just a sign to them that they are not alone.
“And to the loved ones caring for the individual who is sick, these moments with special visits are another memory,” she said.
Hospice P.E.I.’s Liz Parsons, co-ordinator of volunteers for East Prince County, says all the proceeds for the lights on the Christmas tree go towards Hospice, a not-for-profit organization.
Volunteers will be available to accept donations to light up a life on the Christmas tree in Summerside’s Superstore up until Dec. 9 (10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily).