An Honour Guard For Grace

 “That is way beyond palliative care.” Gail Cowling said about the “honour guard” that her mother, Grace Cowling was given when she took her leave from McNally House after she died in June, 2021.

Grace Cowling was a distinguished artist in the Grimsby community. Many of Grace’s paintings hang in the hallways and rooms at McNally House. Holding McNally in great esteem, she gifted these paintings to the house when it opened in 2008.

Reaching the end of her life, Grace felt privileged that she could call McNally home for her last days. The loving care and respect given to her by the staff were gifts she could give to her family, especially to her daughter Gail, who could “be in the moment”. Without the role of caregiver, she could be a “human being, not a human doing”.

Grace Cowling was as eclectic as her paintings. She had a unique personality that was honoured by the staff and volunteers. She loved sharing ideas with Art Therapist, Shara McLaren, and donated all of her art supplies to the program. The support she received from Arthur Loik, Psycho-Spiritual Clinician was life-giving in a time when life was fragile. This was also true for Gail. Arthur helped her process her feelings through a journey that is inevitable, but so difficult. He continues to presently offer her support. 

McNally House helped to navigate the stepping stones of the journey for both Gail and Grace. This journey becomes a good experience even if tremendously sad, by the generous care given to all residents, family, and friends.

Gail shared some of the experiences that clearly show that compassion is behind everything done at McNally. As seen in her paintings, Grace loved the outdoors. Being able to have her bed wheeled out to the patio of her room was exhilarating to her spirit.

Particularly meaningful to Grace was the “Gallery Tour”. One evening, staff wheeled her bed around the halls of McNally so that Grace could visit all her paintings and even lined up paintings from other rooms. Grace could visit with “old friends”, tell stories about the paintings, and the inspiration for their creation.

In the end, those “old friends” became the Honour Guard upon Graces’ leave. The paintings were lined up along the halls as Grace left McNally for the last time. Along with these “old friends” stood staff and volunteers. Indeed, this is “way beyond palliative care”, this is generosity of spirit, caring, and love.

This is “life in every moment.”