The gift of presence

Nathan Liewicki
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Initiative draws visitors to Providence Place for Christmas

Larry Bloom’s love of painting and pyrography is very evident when you enter his room.

Paintings of serene landscapes are pinned on walls alongside wood burned carvings of waterwheel cabins.

Bloom, 78, painted and wood burned all of them. He also constructed a glass water lily, which he said was a taxing project to complete.

“I do quite a bit of artwork,” said Bloom.

On Christmas Day, however, all of the artwork in his Providence Place room could not fill the void in his heart.

Bloom suffers from dementia.

When asked about some of his favourite Christmas memories of years past, Bloom could only muster two responses: “I remember putting up all of the Christmas lights;” and “I miss having all of my family with me on Christmas.”

He told the Times-Herald his wife would be visiting him later on Wednesday, but the pain on his face was visible at the mention of her name.

Unlike a number of residents at the long-term care facility, Bloom did not spent the majority of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day isolated from family. Many of his family members spent lots of time with him over the holidays.

Because many people at long-term care facilities spend Christmas time isolated from family, Edgar Neudorf, the director of spiritual care at Providence Place, organized the first annual “Nobody Alone at Christmas” initiative.

“Christmas is a time where many of us are able to celebrate, but for many people it can be a very lonely and isolated time if they don't have friends or family nearby,” Neudorf said. “So we thought this would be a good thing to do for those who don't have anyone here.”

On Tuesday and Wednesday, Moose Javians stopped by Providence Place to spend a bit of time with residents. According to Neudorf, 52 of the most isolated residents received the “gift of presence.”

One of those who gave the gift of presence was Cambina Brisbin.

The 15-year-old spent part of Christmas Day playing Christmas carols on her violin for residents in different areas of Providence Place.

“I think it’s sad when people don’t get time to spend Christmas with their families,” Brisbin said. “It’s my gift to them.”

Grant Rathwell also spent time with one of the residents on Christmas Day.

He said he has tremendous respect for the people who call Providence Place home, and noted the initiative was another way to provide quality of life for them.

“Personally, it’s a little opportunity for me to give back.

“Unfortunately some people at this long-term care facility feel sidelined, but they are people who have lived full, interesting, contributing and vibrant lives prior to coming here,” said Rathwell. “It’s important to recognize that and spend time with them on Christmas.”

Like Neudorf, Rathwell said the initiative is all about the gift of presence.

“It sounds simple, but it truly is one of the most important things we can share.”

Hugh Colwell’s granddaughter shared that gift when she visited him on Christmas Eve.

Although his entire left side is paralyzed from multiple brain surgeries and strokes, and he uses a scooter to get around, Colwell is grateful for his family, even though he wasn’t with them for Christmas.

“I don’t know what I’d do without them,” he said. 

Even though Colwell referred to Christmas as “just another day,” the gift of presence might have been the only present a number of Providence Place residents received this Christmas. 

Nathan Liewicki can be reached at 306-691-1256 or follow him on Twitter @liewicks

The Times-Herald apologigizes to the entire Bloom family for mistakingly printing that Larry Bloom spent the majority of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day isolated from family members, as well as noting his age to be 88 when it shold have been 78.

Organizations: Times-Herald

Geographic location: Providence Place

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