Hello.  My name is Sandra McSweeney.  I began quilting for over 25 years ago in Thompson, Manitoba.  Quilting is a very popular form of art.  I though do not consider myself an artist.  I am what I call a ‘functional quilter’.  To me, a quilt needs to have a practical and functional purpose – be that for a bed, for a couch or simply a gift.  I have made and given away many quilts to both family and friends.

Most of my career was spent working in the mining industry; not as a ‘miner’, rather in support services involving computers.  Eleven years ago I transferred from Inco’s nickel mine in Thompson, Manitoba to their nickel mine in Voisey’s Bay, Labrador.  This is a remote mining camp just south of Nain, which is Labrador’s most northerly community on the Labrador Sea.  Voisey’s Bay is a fly-in operation, two week in, two weeks out. I started teaching quilting to fill the evenings following a 12 hour shift.  The company was extremely generous and purchased all of our supplies.  We soon became known as “The Quirky Quilters of Voisey’s Bay”.

It was absolutely amazing how quickly these ladies, some of whom had never used a sewing machine in their life, became very prolific and creative.  As they became confident in their abilities, they wanted to give something back.  This was when we started fund raising for a group in Nain called “Nain C.A.R.E.”.  Nain is a beautiful little community on the Labrador coast.  It certainly has, however; more than its’ share of problems, mostly due to its’ remoteness.  Nain C.A.R.E. is a group in the community that raises money for families in times of trouble and financial need.

The “Quirky Quilters” made several items and donated these for fund raising events.  Each year I would make and donate a quilt.  Once again, the company would match funds we raised.  Each year, thanks to these events and the help of Inco (now Vale) we were able to raise several thousands of dollars to help Nain C.A.R.E., which in turn helps those in need in their community.  I believe such fundraising events could assist other organizations.  And, what better way than a hospice.

We all know that life does not go on forever.  How we each imagine our impending death and where we want to die is different for everyone.  Some wish to die at home.  Some wish to die in a hospital.  Some people get to make that decision and others don’t.  For those who get to make that decision, there must be choices.

Hospitals are of course critical for health care.  Their primary function though is to make people better; not to make them more comfortable in their final days.  I have had two sisters die from pancreatic cancer. One died in a hospice and one died in a hospital.  There is no comparison between the two.

The hospital did what they needed to do.  It was however a cold and uninviting atmosphere, not only for the patient but for the family.  Watching your loved one in a room with no warmth whatsoever and had not likely seen a coat of paint for 15 years was hard.  Especially after seeing what is possible.

Acknowledging that the death of a loved one is only moments or days away is hard enough.  The hospice was as ‘non-hospital’ as you could possibly get.  They had the necessary hospital equipment to make patients comfortable, but without the hospital atmosphere or smell.  The staff were marvelous; delivering care and compassion to the patient and all the while sympathetic to the needs of the family.  I really do hope and pray there is a special place in Heaven for the people who serve in such noble caregiving roles.  They were absolutely wonderful; so full of love and empathy.

It was a 100% change from the hospital environment.   Family could visit any time of the day or night.  They did not have the added expense of parking.  For some, that parking fee could make a big difference on the frequency of visits.  In some circumstances, it made a difference in what went into their grocery cart on their next trip to the grocery store.   Parking fees are an expense many people cannot afford.

The room was bright and cheery with comfortable seating for family members.  There were lounge areas for the family to gather and have a cup of tea while the staff were attending to the needs of their patient.  There was a chapel where you could go for a quiet word of prayer or to just be by yourself.  There was a library where you could pick up a book to read during those times when the patient was sleeping.  The entire feel of the place was that of “home.”  Thanks to this warm and peaceful environment everyone was relaxed as they could be under the circumstances. I simply cannot say enough positive things about the place.

My husband, Dan and I live just outside of Bridgewater, Nova Scotia but I have decided to make and donate a quilt to the Hospice & Palliative Care Society of Cumberland County.  I was born and raised in River Hebert, Cumberland County and thought it would appropriate to give a little something back.  To me, there is no better place than a hospice: a facility needed for the people of Cumberland County.

It all began with a quilt.  Therefore; I donate this quilt in loving memory of my sisters Linda O’Regan & Janet Benight; my two brothers Donald Martin and David Martin as well as our friend Brian Harrison.