I was given the great honour of officiating the funeral proceedings for our dear Rose Johnson last month. Sharing this script, shares a bit of her story but more so shares our story with her:
I want to first thank Bob and the Johnson family for trusting me with officiating this celebration of life for our Rose Johnson, it means a great deal to me, more than I can find words for.
For those of you who do not know me I am the Executive Director of Victoria Manor, once, a long time ago when Rose moved into our home, it was more of a mid-level retirement home, over the past 25 years it has evolved into what we now call supportive housing, trying to meet some very distinct needs of a very diverse group of people.
I started my position 13 years ago. I realized very quickly that Rosie was the boss in the home and really I was more of a figurehead. She knew what she wanted, and she knew how to ask in such a way that not I, nor any of us, would refuse her. In those first couple years, there was no one else in administration, just me, so I got used to her standing in her room doorway beckoning me when something was on her mind. If I heard my name being called from down the hall – I went – no question. I changed offices (not to avoid her) and was a little further from her call, so she would commission Staff to assist her in walking down to my office to ask me for what she needed. Always reasonable requests, she always wanted chips and pop made available for our BBQs, she had ideas about what I should give as Resident gifts for Christmas, she had shopping requests. She was direct, and I loved that about her – and she was always courteous with her patent “thank you” said like only she said it. I remember when I decided to pull the carpet in some of the hallways because I knew there was tile underneath and the carpet had become too hard to maintain – she came to me, on Lorenca’s arm, and she asked me not to take her carpet in her hallway. So I left the carpet in the hallway. It has been about 8 years I think now, and the carpet is threadbare – but it’s there. And I am going to have to leave it still, despite its deterioration, how could I pull it now?
As time went our management team grew and then there was Cindy. Rose was easy to care for, she liked schedule, she liked order. (interject Cindy).
And then there was Christine and then Amanda. Any Staff joining our team knew Rose was the one calling the shots. The Residents knew it too, and there was an understanding that as she was the oldest of them, but also the longest residing, that there was a hierarchy. The Residents deferred to her, respected her greatly. If any Resident wants to share a quick memory they are welcome to do that now. (RESIDENTS)
When Christine joined our admin team, she took my place as the name being called down the hall. I didn’t take it personally – Rose was practical and it was about logistics. And I know that’s not true – in the four years Christine has been with us, she and Rosie forged a special relationship. I’d like to ask Christine to say a few words now. (CHRISTINE).
As she aged, which I will interject here - she seemed to age at a far slower rate than the rest of us, I always assumed she had won a bet with the universe some time ago. But she did age, however slowly, and then her hearing was gone, her sight was gone and then her mobility was limited. And we were there with her, or her with us – and it was truly our great honour. She allowed us to be partners on her journey of aging, she showed us what true dignity and tenacity and fortitude was.
It is not an easy job we have at Victoria Manor. In many ways we see people daily at their worst. But we are so purely fortunate to have moments in those long stretches of hard days, where we see beauty and love and hope. Rose gave us joy, she made us feel good about the work we do. I’d like to invite any Staff to come up and say a few words now if anyone has anything they’d like to share? (STAFF)
Bob was a fixture in our home. Our Residents often have few, if anyone, who visit and support them. Bob, like Rose, must like schedule. He was there like clockwork each week to replenish the beer supply for his Mom, to visit her and check in with us. So many of our Residents would benefit from a son, a relationship, like he was, and that he had with his mother. We were grateful for Bob, I am not sure if you knew how special a thing it is just to show up – so many families just don’t show up. Our family relationships define us. We have been party to many birthday luncheons for Rose with her family in our home. And we were also blessed to have been a part of her sister’s Victoria and Dora’s lives as well. If there is anyone from the family that wishes to speak I would invite them up now? (FAMILY)
Rose was not much for church we know, but I think that it is important for us to take a moment and say a prayer in her name. Regardless of your beliefs, I think we all agree that she is at peace now; she is free of whatever burdens came with being born of this human condition. We say a prayer less for Rose, as we accept that at 99 years old, she had a longer life journey than most of us will; we say a prayer for us, because we are sad, because we hurting from our loss, because we want to feel hopeful again. As our prayer reading, I will be reciting the poem “Death is Nothing at All” by Canon Henry Scott-Holland. So however you pray, or mediate or commune, we’ll collectively think of Rose, and we will try to let go of some of our sadness knowing we were a part of her storied life, and we will send her our love –beyond these words, we will carry her with us, each of us, more parts than her whole altogether to remember her all the rest of our days.
I have only slipped away into the next room
I am I and you are you
Whatever we were to each other
That we are still
Call me by my old familiar name
Speak to me in the easy way you always used
Put no difference into your tone
Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow
Laugh as we always laughed
At the little jokes we always enjoyed together
Play, smile, think of me, pray for me
Let my name be ever the household word that it always was
Let it be spoken without effort
Without the ghost of a shadow in it
Life means all that it ever meant
It is the same as it ever was
There is absolute unbroken continuity
What is death but a negligible accident?
Why should I be out of mind
Because I am out of sight?
I am waiting for you for an interval
Somewhere very near
Just around the corner
All is well.
Nothing is past; nothing is lost
One brief moment and all will be as it was before.
How we shall laugh at the trouble of parting when we meet again!
The family encourages you to join us at the Greenlawn Memorial Gardens for the interment and then following immediately to a luncheon at the Moose Lodge 777 Tecumseh Road West.