Creating beautiful, everlasting memories together at the end
A poetic and mesmerizing tale of tiles adorns the hallways and rooms of the palliative care Unit 43 at the Grey Nuns Community Hospital. Painted by patients and families facing serious illnesses and end-of-life care, the tiles offer gentle comfort and support to others facing the same emotional journey, and to the compassionate Covenant staff who provide care.
With funding from the Covenant Foundation, the Tile Tales program was introduced as a facilitated session to unit staff. The artistic experience has expanded to include not only patients and their families, but also staff members, as a meaningful therapeutic way to reflect on palliative care and end-of-life support.
Before husband Wayne Mack lost his beloved wife Shannon to gastrointestinal cancer, they chose to create a tile together with a theme designed to reflect on the team who worked every day to support Shannon – body, mind and soul.
With the help of her eldest son, Shannon arranged to paint a tile with Wayne and wrote her poem for those who gave so selflessly to aid in her care. Thinking back to that moment and their time at the Grey Nuns, Wayne also feels tremendous appreciation for the compassion and care the whole family received.
“I personally want to express my gratitude and thanks for the dedication and professionalism of the staff at Unit 43 at the Grey Nuns Hospital,” says Wayne. “And I want to share a special thanks to Chaplain Christine Enfield.
As Chaplain Christine Enfield explains, “Life and death are part of a human experience we all go through. This program is vital, and we are so thankful to the Covenant Foundation and its donors, because it helps our team to bring families together at a critical time to make healing possible.”
Bev Burton has had a difficult time processing the recent loss of a loved one in palliative care at the Grey Nuns – her cherished daughter-in-law Nattiya. Like the Mack family, Bev and her family found some solace and healing through Unit 43’s Tile Tales program.
The Tile Tales being available to my friends and family was a special means to create a memory," says Bev. “In our case, Nat was still with us, and this project offered us the comfort of sharing her thoughts in the process. It was an amazing way to channel and divert some of the worry and sadness, even just for a short time. I hope that future patients will feel the same way we did in being able to participate in such a special tribute together.”
The Tile Tales program has been available at the Grey Nuns since May 2008. Dr. Cheryl Nekolaichuk, a Unit 43 psychologist at that time, discovered this program thanks to art therapist, Dr. Marilyn Hundleby
With the support of annual grants from the foundation, these special tile art pieces have been, and continue to be, created to share, to inspire, to express and to heal.
For any patients or families who ask about creating a tile, the project always starts with an image, and the story follows. It is a telling tale of the fact that anyone can be an artist; it just starts with the right inspiration, from the heart. In the information package given to those who participate, it is written that almost everyone initially says, ‘I’m not artistic’ or ‘I’m not creative.’ However, what comes forth is an amazing and deeply meaningful tile and an inspirational story.
Unit 43, which some might assume is sterile and full of despair if they haven’t seen it first-hand, is in fact brimming full of light and love – a little-known and one-of-a-kind place in the city for patients and families who rely on Covenant’s holistic approach to palliative care. With a dedicated team of staff, this unit provides the specialized support of a psychologist, chaplain, social workers, occupational therapists, and music therapists who focus their efforts within only this unit at the Grey Nuns Community Hospital.
“We choose to work in this field because we have a passion for it; we feel like we can contribute to help and support people along a very difficult time in their life,” says Chaplain Christine Enfield. “When we see how the Tile Tales program makes a difference, it inspires our whole team to keep going, to keep moving forward, to keep doing our best to help the next family in need. I am humbled to be a part of this team.”
Thanks to the support of the foundation, Tile Tales is offered at no cost to patients and their families, and the tile projects can also be duplicated so a family can take a replica copy home to cherish for years to come. Donor generosity also helps fund a wide array of books available to aid in grief support, especially for teenagers and children.
Tile Tales embodies timeless representation of the emotional journey of patients and families both young and old, who discovered a unique artistic way to express themselves. The impact of donors’ gifts for the program lives on as gratitude in the hearts of families who enter Unit 43 with uncertainty and grief but leave with a loving form of healing that lasts a lifetime.
Written by: Jackie Fowler
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