Santa goes by a lot of different names: St. Nicholas, Kris Kringle, Father Christmas. Here at St. Paul’s, our beloved Santa and Mrs. Claus answer to Edward and Gillian. As you can imagine, it was a rare treat to meet with them (over Zoom!) to chat about the status of the naughty/nice list, overcoming the challenges of the pandemic during the holidays, and their very special connection to St. Paul’s.
Given the chance to speak with Santa, the first and most obvious question has to be about the naughty/nice list. Fortunately, most of us can breathe a sigh of relief.
In the words of the big guy himself, “I don’t think we’ve ever had a longer ‘nice’ list!”
“That’s right,” adds Gillian. “Santa and I have really loved seeing all of your wonderful acts of kindness this year. How you clapped for the health care workers! All of the snacks, and hot meals, and supplies you donated! And the countless thank you cards and letters you sent to the doctors and nurses!”
What about the folks who haven’t made the cut? Santa has some welcome reassurance. “Not to worry, there’s still time. One way you can get there is to make sure you’re following Dr. Bonnie’s advice: stay safe, stay in your bubble, and stay kind!”
Hope at Home
Lights of Hope has also taken Dr. Bonnie’s wisdom to heart. This year, almost every one of our beloved traditions is available online. You can live stream the beautiful display all here; you can donate on our secure web site; and you can purchase your own Hope at Home lantern to hang in your window and show everyone how much you care about our frontline workers – a kind of Christmas version of the 7:00 PM cheer!
If you do decide to visit the display in person, make sure you do so safely with ‘fewer faces and bigger spaces.’
Gillian and Edward have high praise for this new approach. “It’s a shame we can’t be with everyone in person this year. But this is truly the next best thing,” says Gillian.
Edward agrees. “In some ways, it’s even better! Now, no matter where you are, you can tune in all season long! While you’re baking treats or wrapping gifts or writing cards or playing reindeer games!”
Love in the time of pandemic
And this year, as we care for patients, residents, and families in the midst of the pandemic, the impact of your donations to Lights of Hope is more profound than ever.
Edward and Gillian know this from their own poignant, first-hand experience. In March, they lost one of their dearest friends to COVID-19. Ray Buchanan died at St. Paul’s, one day after his 90th birthday.
Ray was a legendary costume designer and member of BC’s Entertainment Hall of Fame. It was Ray’s genius with fabric, notions, needle, and thread that created the couple’s picture-perfect holiday outfits.
“Ray was so much more than a friend. He was family,” says Gillian. “And despite his age, he was nowhere near done living.”
The couple reminisce about the last time they saw Ray in person. It was in February, for a Hollywood-worthy Oscar party. Gillian smiles, “He was dressed to the nines and the very picture of elegance!”
In mid-March, Ray set off for a short trip to London, England, as he had done countless times before. It’s likely that he caught the virus while there.
On his way back, he began feeling sick and went straight from the airport to St. Paul’s. Despite the very best care, Ray’s condition deteriorated quickly. And pandemic restrictions prevented him from having visitors. “It was awful,” says Gillian.
But as sometimes happens, the darkest days can also produce the brightest lights. That’s where Doug Rae comes in. Doug is an ICU outreach nurse at St. Paul’s. He was able to patch through a call to Ray’s nearest and dearest so they could say goodbye. For Edward and Gillian, the memory of that call is still as fresh today as it was back in March.
“I didn’t want to say goodbye,” says Gillian. “I told him ‘you have to get better. You have Santa suits to make.'”
The couple take comfort in knowing that Ray wasn’t alone when he died. Doug was there, holding his hand. The experience later inspired Doug to write a poem that includes the lines:
Today I held his hand
And in the other
Held a phone
His family said
We love you
It’s time to say
Today I held his hand
So he wouldn’t be
– By Kris Wallace
To honour Ray’s memory and the care he received at St. Paul’s, Edward and Gillian made a donation to Lights of Hope in his name. Your gift to Lights of Hope brings light to the darkest places. You provide nurses like Doug Rae with PPE so they can safely care for their patients. And you provide the iPads that make it possible for families to be at their loved ones’ bedside. Give the gifts of comfort and compassion.
“All we’ve ever wanted to do is help people and bring them joy.” Edward and Gillian