Thank you. I am greatly honoured that Angie asked me to speak about Deb today, as she lived, and the impact of her passing on our Victoria Manor family.
For those of you who do not know, my name is Leigh Vachon, and I am the Executive Director of Victoria Manor Supportive Housing. Debra and Mike lived in our home for the last five years. They came to us to a home similar to ours in the county. Just briefly, to give you some context, Victoria Manor supports over 110 people residentially who struggle with complex physical and mental health issues. Both Deb and Mike were no strangers to that struggle; they knew emotional and physical pain too well.
Mike and Deb, were far more than their pain. So often our Residents, and people like them all, who have mental health issues, and who appear “sick”, are stigmatized, judged, ridiculed and blamed for their illnesses. It is important for me to say this, because it is important to it say aloud as often as we can, as advocates for people like Deb and Mike, that Deb and Mike were whole people. Different from what our community may think people should be, but they were whole, and they lived full and wonderfully complicated lives. And there was pain yes, but there was tremendous love. And there was great joy, and there was humour and there was kindness and there was respect.
Not too long after arriving at Victoria Manor, Debbie and Mike put their names forward to be Chair and Co-Chair, respectively, of the Resident’s committee. They were advocates for themselves, and they advocated for others who might not have as easily found their voice. Deb had a loud and strong, and proud voice. She was tenacious and she was smart. She was sometimes all those things to a fault, and that was also who she was. And we loved her for it, despite it sometimes, and through it.
Mike and Debbie had a love affair to be envied. Each greeting and parting heard an “I love you”. There were pet names, and constant small kindnesses. I think that was one of the most beautiful things about them, was their love for each other. And I know that each of them had a great capacity for love. I cannot, and won’t try to make apologies for anything Deb might have done when she was ill, or the mistakes she made in her life – the ones we all make when we are living our lives the only way we know how to live them at the time – but I can tell you – she loved her family, she was proud of her son and she talked about you all often.
Deb’s best friend Colleen told me I had to talk about Deb’s jokes. She wanted you to know that Deb was always making jokes; she had a quick wit as well as a bit of a bawdy side. I know Colleen misses being able to laugh with Deb, especially when it seemed like there was nothing much to find funny. That was probably when Deb was at her best – when she was able to step outside of herself and to help her friends, to make them laugh, to share their pain. There is a lot of pain at Victoria Manor. It is a terrible truth about our home. But I can tell you, that the pain is what has given us that snarling perseverance, ferocity and fight that we have. And Deb, for the time she was with us, was the Queen of our pride.