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“It is a gift to be able to give.”

“How was your year?” It was a simple question that optometrist Dr. Linda Bathe asked Ian Watson and his wife Janine Pearson each year at their annual eye appointment.

As senior instructors with the Stratford Festival’s coaching team, there were always successes to share. Yet, it was Linda’s updates about the hospice project she was involved in that interested Ian the most. The more he learned, the more he believed in its vision.

While Ian and Janine’s knowledge grew thanks to Linda and fellow Rotarian Shawn Malvern, their daughter Anik formed her own connection to the project. As an active member of Central Secondary’s social justice group and the school band, she participated in several fundraisers to build Rotary Hospice.

So, the family’s interest began well in advance of Ian’s cancer diagnosis in 2018 and his mother’s death two years previous.

In April 2020, Rotary Hospice received a call from Janine; “how is your year?” she asked. Concerned about those who, in this challenging time, were living the journey that her family did with Ian, she knew that the care provided by Rotary Hospice would be more important than ever. Janine, Anik, Ian’s father and siblings all felt the time was now to make a gift to Rotary Hospice. It would be in memory of Ian, who had died at home in April 2019, at the age of 60, three months before the Hospice opened.

For Janine, dying at home was not unheard of; she remembers her mother, a nurse, caring for her grandmother in their home. This experience formed her belief that death should be treated with the same care and dignity as birth. Knowing how fortunate she was to care for Ian at home, supported by work, friends and family, she was humbled by the knowledge that not everyone has these supports.

Ian, his siblings and his father had been making gifts from his mother’s estate to charity when he passed away. When Janine made the call to Rotary Hospice, and siblings Martha in Edmonton and Alick in Boston saw the floor plans and virtual tour, they sensed what Ian had learned: the residents were at the heart of the building, and the energy of nature flooded the rooms. To come together as a family to make this gift made it even more special. It is a gift to be able to give, as Janine so beautifully says.

Today, Ian Watson is remembered with an inscription on the plaque by the door to Resident Suite 8. Thy Life’s a Miracle, it reads. It was the view of poplar trees that led Janine and Anik to choose that room.
Words cannot express the gratitude Rotary Hospice has for this most generous gift, received at a time when none of us knew how to answer that simple question of Dr. Bathe’s “how was your year?”

As shared by Janine Pearson, wife of 25 years to Ian Watson.

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