Barry and George are sitting across from each other in the bright lounge of Pinehaven Nursing Home in Waterloo. They’re waiting patiently for the morning’s service to begin. Though they are from different corners of the world, the opportunity to worship was always important to both of them throughout their lives and now, they look forward to these regular services at Pinehaven.
While they wait, they speak of their roots through pockets of memories that lead them to the chairs they sit upon this morning. George’s path started in British Guiana, which has been known as the independent nation of Guyana since the late 1960s. George’s memory goes back to the days before that, however, to when his family easily travelled back and forth between the small island off the coast of South America and the ‘motherland’ of England. He actually grew up in England before his job brought him to Canada around the same time that Guyana gained its independence. He’s proud of his Canadian identity, but he still looks back to his early roots as the foundation of who he is.
Barry is much the same. He’s also an islander from a small village on the coast of Newfoundland. He grew up to work in the fisheries there and struggled as many did when the cod fishery collapsed. But his memories from his youth are good ones, playing hockey on frozen ponds in the winter and when the snow melted away, running the wharfs in the salty air, playing or working alongside the men of the sea.
He says one of the the best things about Newfoundland, not unlike his home today, is how tight the communities there are.
“When you grows up together,” he says, his smile wide and his accent thick, “you looks out to one another and that’s one ‘ting I likes about it.”
Pinehaven is a tight community too, he adds. “I loves it ‘ere. I wouldn’t turn this place down for nothin’,” says Barry, and George nods in agreement.
By this time more residents are making their way into the lounge. Their regular chaplain is sick today so instead of a full service, they’ll sing their favourite hymns, guided by a lovely volunteer upon the piano. She’s a key part the service twice a week, and the residents are grateful for the gift of music she offers.
Dorothy is a resident who sings along to every hymn, rarely looking at the songbook upon her lap. She’s from a small village in Wales, not too far from Cardiff, the type of place where as a teenager everyone knew what you were up to. She says Dorothy means “Gift from God”, and she smiles coyly when she says she tries to live up to her moniker. When she was a child, they never had songbooks in chapel so they sang the hymns from memory. That’s why she doesn’t need the words today, she says, all these decades later. Going to chapel every week was how she remembers her community coming together; they looked out for one another there, as well.
Pinehaven feels the same on this bright November morning – a community that comes together regularly, where residents and team members are there for each other no matter what.