Author: Claudette Léger-Gauthier, The Lighthouse Children and Families volunteer
Translation: Charlene Lee, volunteer translator for The Lighthouse
My periphery is The Lighthouse Children and Families, the one and only house in Quebec that offers paediatric palliative care. I have been volunteering here with children for seven years. My precious children have taught me so much at this school of life. Here at the Lighthouse, it is far from what is generally expected of our modern society: performance, exceeding, and success...With the children at the Lighthouse, the first golden rule is unconditional love: welcoming them as they are, to see their beauty, and to let go just like their parents
Valerie has taught me and tamed me just like the fox in the Little Prince. I was watching her from afar for more than a year... I abide by and accept the lack of affinity - always be authentic! One day, we were facing each other and she asked: "Who are you? What do you do here?" I looked at her and knelt down in front of her. She was about eleven years old but was only so tall. I answered: "Today, I came here to have fun with you." She took my hand and gave my arm a million kisses. I open my arms and she snuggled in. Valerie broke all my reluctance. In this small body in which she was imprisoned, she had an extraordinary force. I only had to go beyond appearances. "What is essential is invisible to the eye."
At the Lighthouse, we find ourselves in another world, in another dimension. Welcoming differences. Discovering the beauty of children that people look away from. Accepting the slower pace of their development and their limits, without asking for more. In this other dimension, wonderful things often happen. Sometimes Maxence's intense gaze reveals an "I love you" followed by a hug with open arms. When Kellyann gives me a radiant smile, I hear her pronounce my name clearly for the first time. I expect nothing and I receive everything.
These children who accept their condition without complaints impress me tremendously. What a lesson of life! Such resilience! The attitude of health workers and volunteers of all ages (from 18 to almost 75), who devote body and soul to the little patients at the Lighthouse, never cease to amaze me. Some administrative personnel even know the children's names and speak to them fondly. Indeed, I can say that the Lighthouse, house of palliative care for children, is a place where love, simplicity, tenderness, family spirit, and the joy of life prevail...until the end.
Quiet reading with Claudette and Cynthia
Styrofoam engraving with Mackenzie