“The source of love is deep in us and we can help others realize a lot of happiness. One word, one action, one thought can reduce another person’s suffering and bring that person joy.”
― Thích Nhất Hạnh
If you are familiar with the Langley Hospice Society, there is a strong possibility that you have also heard of Thornton Smith. As one of our esteemed volunteers of the past fifteen years, Thornton has participated in and supported a variety of services and events. From serving as a past treasurer of our Board of Directors, to providing support in palliative and bereavement settings, and more recently, participating in the creation of our beautiful children’s garden – it is not exaggerating to state that Thornton has done it all.
Thornton attributes his interest in volunteering to when he first began to lend his support at a residential home for the physically disabled in England. After he moved to Canada and created a lovely family, Thornton began to serve on our Board of Directors as treasurer. Initially describing it as “something to do”, as he had a limited knowledge about hospice, it was through this opportunity that he realized the importance of grief work and supporting others at the end-of-life. It is the importance of this work, and the strong connections made as a result, that allows him to continue with his contributions. “We are all social beings,” he eloquently states, “and when all the trappings of material life fall away, there is only people and relationships remaining”. This was best personified for Thornton during one of his first volunteering experiences at the residence. “A woman’s husband had just died and “I sat quietly with her” he shared. “The silence and quiet was deafening. It was a hugely emotional and profound experience. However, it is this kind of familiar experience that often occurs at the residence; disguised in different forms and in varying circumstances”.
After fifteen years (and counting) of volunteering for hospice, Thornton was pleased to share another personal story and one he describes as a personal achievement. As co-facilitator for a ten week loss-support group, Thornton states how surprised he was at the healing process that began for many, if not all, participants in the group. “During the weekly sessions”, he continues, “ a phrase evolved out of Dr. Wolfelt’s [work] which became a bit of a mantra for me – death and grief are spiritual journeys of the heart and soul. Coincidentally, at this time, my daughter was going through her last few weeks of a fairly difficult pregnancy. In our weekly group opening, when we share about our lives, I would give an update of the latest events and witnessed these participants becoming surrogate parents to baby Norah, who was born happy and healthy. Mother and baby visited the group on our last session, much to the delight of all. During this time, my mantra was modified to – BIRTH, death, and grief are spiritual journeys of the heart and soul”.
From a genuine interest to a heartwarming mantra, Thornton Smith represents the compassionate support and diligent efforts that Langley Hospice Society’s volunteers demonstrate time and time again. Thank you!
Shivani Kaushik, MSW, RSW
Adult Bereavement Program Coordinator