Strength and Determination to Honour her Love

‘It meant the world’ for Elaine to be able to sing in her beloved choir again

By Kristian Partington

Among many of the great characteristics that defined the man she loved, Elaine Charette remembers the spirit of perseverance and determination her husband Webb held tightly throughout his life.  

“He used to always say, ‘never give up,’ ” Elaine recalls. Small framed pictures he kept of animals escaping the clutches of danger were little reminders of this most basic of philosophies; he’d give them out to strangers on the street and she has one on her wall still today in her suite at the Village of Riverside Glen.

In the past couple of months, that sense of determination helped her achieve a major goal while honouring her memories of Webb, whom she lost six months ago.

It was nearly a year ago that Elaine tried to keep Webb from falling when he suddenly lost his balance. She couldn’t hold his weight, however, and they both fell, breaking her hip in the process. Webb’s health faded as Elaine took the slow steps towards recovery and after a rapid cancer was discovered, Webb made his final home at Hospice Wellington, where Elaine has offered support for close to 15 years.

Kylie and Elaine walking up the stairs
Kylie and Elaine at Riverside Glen

Since then, Elaine has been trying to cope with her loss while working hard every day to regain her strength and independence. When the opportunity arose to once again sing with the United Choirs of Salvation Sounds and the Hospice Wellington Vocal Group at a performance at Guelph’s Basilica of Our Lady Immaculate during the second week of advent, she had one more incentive to improve her strength. She was determined to climb the stairs to the choir’s loft in the grand church and sing as she has for the past decade, so with the support of the team at Riverside Glen, she began a steady exercise regimen.

Most mornings Elaine could be found at the NuStep machine in the fitness centre working towards at least 1,000 steps a session, and with kinesiologist Kylie Martin at her side, she would regularly tackle the stairwells. Everyone sees her working in the gym almost every day facing out towards Main Street and people often stop to hug her or offer a kiss on the cheek, each gesture in it’s own way a nudge of encouragement.

“It gives me real incentive to do well,” Elaine says of the constant support she receives. “It helped to keep me going.”

When the day of the performance arrived, the side door to the church was blocked so not only did Elaine have to navigate the stairs to the choir loft, she also had to hike the 16 large steps at the main entrance before making her way down the aisle. The added difficulty made no difference, however, and she likes to think Webb was watching fondly as she made her way to the perch and carried her voice with the others to the lofty heights of the church and beyond.

“It meant the world to me to be able to do that,” she says, humbly shuffling off any mention of her own part in her success and instead offering her gratitude to Kylie and the team.

Yet Elaine is the true inspiration, Kylie says. “She has a lot of determination,” and it paid off in the continuation of an important holiday tradition.