Welcome to the inaugural edition of BloomBuzz, The Bloom Group’s community newsletter.
Love in Bloom
Love stories from the Downtown Eastside
Love can be insidious. It can sneak up on you anytime, anywhere. This was the case for Doreen and Robert, a couple who found love nine years ago when they were least expecting it. At the heart of their love, the strength and support they give each other could be anyone’s love story, but what makes this love story remarkable is that Doreen and Robert are residents of Victory House, a licensed supportive home in the Downtown Eastside for people with mental health challenges.
Doreen, a resident of Victory House for the past twenty two years, is quick to recall meeting Robert nine years ago. “The nurse introduced us in front of the med cart,” she said, “I thought he was beautiful”. Robert recalls that Doreen was the only one who would talk to him. They “hit it off great from the beginning and carried on from there.” Like any good relationship, there is a certain give and take – Robert helps Doreen with her finances, her banking, and her general paperwork – while Robert appreciates “the way she (Doreen) handles herself. She doesn’t blame me too often.” Meanwhile, Doreen is smitten with Robert: “He’s very handsome, very intelligent. He’s always the same. He has a lot of qualities.”
Love can be pushy. Cupid’s bow can strike hard and fast without warning. For Patti, a resident of Cordova House, it took her by storm. She met John in 2007 at Cordova House, a supportive housing residence for 66 residents in the Downtown Eastside.
“John saw me and he fell in love with me,” wrote Patti, a long-time Cordova House resident. Patti is deaf, and told her story through writing and signing.
Patti had overcome significant challenges. She was previously married to a man who abused her.
John was different. “John (was) good to me and a sweet and gentle man. He always spoil(ed) me,” Patti wrote.
After John became terminally ill, he moved into May’s Place hospice. May’s Place is the only hospice in the Downtown Eastside and the first hospice in Western Canada. Patti wrote that John liked May’s Place “…because [staff are] kind, and it’s comfortable.” Patti spent every day by John’s side. In 2013, when he asked her to marry him, she said yes.
May’s Place’s staff arranged John and Patti’s wedding. Donations were gathered to pay for their wedding rings. The team helped Patti find a dress, arranged her wedding bouquet of dahlias and prepared food for the party.
As Patti walked down the hall of May’s Place – the wedding aisle – she was nervous, happy and excited. John waited for her in his bed, his son at his side. When Patti walked into the room, John wept with joy. Patti used sign-language to tell John again and again that she loved him. “I know you love me,” John responded each time, “I got the best lady around. Everybody loves you.”
Laughter swelled as guests gathered to cut the cake, decorated with a cake topper loaned by a care provider from her own bridal shower.
“We help people achieve what’s important to them,” said Vivien McTavish, Clinical Practice Lead for The Bloom Group hospices, “so each day is the best that they can have.” Love can make its way into our hearts and make all the difference. As Doreen said: “Robert always takes care of me. He really does care about me. It’s the closest I’ve ever been to love.”
Victory House, Cordova House and May’s Place are operated by The Bloom Group Community Services Society. The Bloom Group provides housing, health care and social services to 3,000 individuals each year many of whom face mental health challenges. To donate to mental health, visit: https://www.thebloomgroup.org/Donate/ Or, contact:
Cindy Graves, Director of Development and Communications
604 606 0306