Dignity quilt honours neighbours at the Village of Winston Park

Work of art is an ‘opportunity to bless the life that has lived’

Death is a part of life but until recent times in most corners of the long-term care and seniors living sectors, death was a topic to be spoken of only of in quiet tones, hidden from view, presumably in the hopes of avoiding any shift in the delicate balance that keeps residents in good spirits.

But grief, loss and death are realities for all humanity that are all too close for the people who live and work in a long-term care or retirement setting. It is fallacy to think death can be entirely hidden from view in such homes and many believe that doing so dishonours the life and legacy of the person who spent their final days there.

The culture is changing, however, and many long-term care and retirement homes have recognized that death must be spoken about and a life that has come to an end should be honoured with full respect. Dignity walks are becoming more common providing both team members and residents with an opportunity to pay their respects to a neighbour whose time in this life has ended.  Martha Goode and Marion Kidd stand with the home's dignity quilt between them

Martha Goode and Marion Kidd from The Village of Winston Park have recently added to the ceremonial walks there by creating a “dignity quilt” to be draped over the body of a person who has passed as they leave the village for the final time.

“I saw this as an opportunity to honour the person who was just deceased,” says Martha. As a retired ordained minister guided by deep faith, she has ushered countless people through the final stages of life, so it seemed appropriate that she not only contributed to the creation of the quilt but was also asked to bless it.

“Martha’s quilts are works of art,” Marion says. Vibrant colours to symbolize various aspects of the life cycle surround the image of a flying dove, and the quilt will hold a prominent place in the village chapel, soaking the blessings of every service offered there. It’s a place worthy of a sacred gift to the residents of the village.

“In general, I think society and denominations are becoming more open with death . . . and knowing that it’s a part of life.” Martha says. “They used to shove it in a corner, didn’t want to talk about it, but that’s changing.”

The way it used to be is people would go out the back door,” says recreation director Katie Whidden, who was watching closely as Marion and Martha spent weeks creating the beautiful quilt. “We would celebrate when they came to village, but we wouldn’t celebrate when they left.”

That has changed in recent times and now an even more personalized tribute will accompany the person honoured in the ceremony, thanks to Marion and Martha. Their pride is plain to see when they speak about their gift.

“This is an opportunity to bless the life that has lived,” Martha says. “It’s honouring who this person is.”

This story was originally published by Kristian Partington, on Schlegel Villages' website. Reposted with permission.

In Photo: Martha Goode and Marion Kidd stand with the home's dignity quilt.