When Lingam came to live in long-term care at Langara, he was still in his 50s and much younger than most of his neighbours. He was also very sick; he had no family; and he desperately needed care. What the staff and residents didn’t know was how quickly they would become his family. How much they would come to need his care. And how hard it would be to say goodbye.
When you think of people in long-term care, you probably picture elderly folks who are frail or living with dementia. And while many residents are older, anyone over the age of 21 who needs long-term care, can live in our homes. That’s how Lingam came to live at Langara.
As soon as he started feeling better, Lingam start helping. He delivered newspapers to residents who couldn’t get up. He distributed meals. He transported people to their activities. Family members would seek him out to ask how their loved ones were doing and who had come to visit that week. When folks didn’t have visitors, Lingam would sit with them.
“Lingam was like a support worker who just happened to live here. Everyone loved him,” remembers Brian Hufsmith, a Clinical Nurse Leader at Langara and one of Lingam’s many long-term friends on the unit.
We are family
Unfortunately, this spring Lingam’s health took a sharp turn for the worse. “Not only was he very ill, but his symptoms were distressing and he was afraid,” says Brian. “Some days, he couldn’t get out of bed. It was hard for us to see him so sick and anxious.”
That’s when Langara’s medical coordinator, Dr. Marcus Greatheart (talk about a perfect name!), had the idea to recognize Lingam’s years’ of friendship and service with the first-ever Langara Courage Award.
Of course, birthdays, holidays, and celebrations are always more meaningful when you share them with loved ones. And thanks to generous donors to Lights of Hope, all Providence Health Care long-term care homes have funds specifically earmarked for special occasions.
“The help and support we get from St. Paul’s Foundation and Lights of Hope is truly amazing,” says Brian. “But as it turned out, we didn’t actually need the funding this time. Staff and residents all pitched in to plan, bake, and decorate. Even the treats we ordered from a nearby restaurant were covered. When the owner heard the food was for Lingam’s party, he donated everything!”
The celebration was a huge success. Although Brian notes that Lingam was too bashful to come forward for the award presentation: a giant collage of photos, cards, and congratulations. “It’s hard to recognize someone who is so humble, he can’t imagine why you want to honour him,” laughs Brian. “But Lingam was truly happy and he accepted the award with his usual humility.”
To Brian, the whole event was much more than a tribute to Lingam’s generous spirit. “It was a way to show him that he meant the world to us; that we would always love and support him; that we were a family.”
Just a few weeks after the party, Lingam passed away. The staff and residents gathered again, this time to say goodbye. Brian worked closely with Langara’s spiritual health team to organize a memorial to acknowledge everyone’s grief and give everyone a chance to speak.
“We knew Lingam was special,” Brian says. “But there was so more connection than even I realized. I saw the toughest people break down and cry when talking about how much he meant to them.”
One of the most touching tributes came from Sahul, a care aide who grew up in the same Sri Lankan town as Lingam. Long ago, Lingam fell in love but his family forbid him from pursing it. He was haunted by that loss for his whole life. There was a song he would sing quietly to himself when he needed strength to let go or get through.
Accompanied by Langara’s music therapist (another program funded by donations to Lights of Hope), Sahul sang Lingam’s sorrowful song. There wasn’t a dry eye in the room.
Brian laughs. “Of course, if Lingam had been there, he would have said, ‘Why are you making such a fuss?’” Because you were loved, Lingam, and your light shines on.
When you give to Lights of Hope, you fill our homes with activities, music, and opportunities for people to connect in deeply rewarding ways. Thank you!