“My grandmother was my hero. She, and my equally beloved, gifted grandfather, had adopted my mother when she was seven. Career people with university degrees, my grandmother’s being in chemistry, they were getting on in years when they realized that the best option for having children was adoption. Visiting an adoption facility, they were introduced to my mother who would not leave their side once she met them... she adopted them! It was a match of divine design as they were able to raise my mother to fulfill her destiny of working in psychology, having eventually acquired two university degrees.
My dad, also from troubled beginnings, rose above those challenges to obtain the PHD in Forestry Genetics that would eventually bring us to Canada from California, where I was raised. He and my mother, with the unwavering support from my maternal grandparents, gave my older sister and me an exciting, creative up-bringing.
My best memories of growing up are of times spent at my grandparents’ retirement village. There, I got a sense of community and I learned how I could impact people’s lives, even as a child. My sister and I were given free rein to be little entrepreneurs with our lemonade stands, our theatrical shows and our roller-skating exhibitions. My grandparents’ neighbours all came with coins, laughter and connection to soak up our youthful energy. I thrived on those connections.
Perhaps most memorable were the quiet times we spent in the homes of many of the residents in that little community. They would invite us in, truly listen to us and answer our questions. I was always drawn to their stories… why they had the things they had in their homes, what their families were like, what they had accomplished in their lives… I bathed in their wisdom.
Indeed, I’m constantly drawn to the crinkly, wrinkly eyes that have seen so much life. I love the energy of youth but the energy that comes from older people seems so grounded… rooted, honest, authentic… they know who they are, where they have been and what it all means. I learn so much from them.
After the bed and breakfast, I went into nursing and rehabilitation and, while that fulfilled that desire to serve people in making their lives better physically, it is Hospice where I have found my home. With Hospice, it is all about connection… community… family… the whole person’s well-being. It reaches into my soul and allows me to serve on a team that is dedicated to making life richer for those who are taking that walk into their next adventure.”
Gretchen’s key words for herself are “growth” and “balance”. Currently undertaking a Master’s degree in Leadership, with a health specialization can only enrich her work with her Hospice team and allow her to grow in her new role. She credits the Hospice work with providing the balance she has been seeking in her personal life. “This work, so aligned with my soul, brings me peace… and that can only benefit me, my children and my contribution to the community.”