Hayden Davies is richer today. This after his mom finally settled an outstanding debt dating back some six years.
Hayden, his mother Lori Morison, her husband Steve, and Hayden’s little sister Lily were among about 120 guests at the Langley Hospice Society’s third annual Plates & Glasses fundraiser on Saturday.
And this family’s story of mourning brought the crowd to their feet and filled many eyes in the room with tears during the gala dinner at Fort Langley Community Hall.
A moving video featuring Hayden, followed by an emotional speech made by Lori, told the story of a young 20-year-old man’s death and the trauma and despair that befell his family – and how hospice helped them heal.
“June 9, 2012 was the day my life turned completely upside down and inside out – it would never be the same,” Lori shared.
She, Steve, Hayden, and Lily were on their way to one of Hayden’s lacrosse games, taking a different route than usual that day. They passed a fire truck with its lights on, and Lori took note.
“I remember feeling a sense of dread,” she recounted.
About 25 minutes later, she missed a call and listened to the message that said: “…this is Ruby from Langley Memorial Hospital. We have your son, Garrett Morison here… can you please come right away… and please don’t drive.”
The message sent Mom into a tailspin, despite all efforts by Steve to calm her.
“Don’t worry, it’s probably nothing,” he said, trying to reassure her.
But it was more than nothing.
Garrett was dead. He was out with friends and passed away from an accidental drug overdose.
“I focused on consoling everyone else. I kept busy. I didn’t want to think, I couldn’t… even sleep was hard, every time I woke up, I had to remember… he was gone,” Mom recounted.
She credited Hayden, Lily, and Steve with giving her purpose.
“We held each other up. Each day was a nightmare, I had suicidal thoughts, anything to go and be with Garrett, but I couldn’t cause more pain for those I love… so I got up every day for them and continued on,” Mom said.
Knowing she’d never be able to be part of planning her eldest son’s wedding, Lori threw herself into planning the “perfect” funeral.
“I got busy planning…I had to plan the perfect celebration, to pick the perfect songs, the perfect clothes, the perfect pictures…everything had to be perfect,” she said,” noting of course that not would be perfect.
After the celebration of life – they all continued to struggle.
“How were we supposed to continue…nothing was right, how could it be? I’d lost my son, I could barely get out of bed, let alone go to work or make money, and that was just me – this was so overwhelmingly hard and stressful for our whole family – I knew we needed help,” she told of her own plight, as well as that of her loved-ones.
That’s when she reached out to the hospice.
“We found what we needed there – and so much more,” Lori said. “If you had told me then, that I would ever feel some sort of peace again, I would have not believed you.”
That’s where the money owed to Hayden comes in. She promised the Grade 5er $50, if he’d go one time.
“To be honest, I probably would have promised him just about anything – because he refused to go, he wouldn’t talk, and I was desperate for him to go and have a safe place to talk about his feelings.”
She reached out to the team in the child and youth bereavement program to find support for Hayden and Lily, who was only four when Garrett died, but was still growing up in a household “riddled” with grief.
“I’m thankful that Langley hospice has been a part of my children’s lives,” Lori said, describing them as a caring network of support that helped all of them feel less isolated.
“They feel accepted, allowed to truly be themselves, express and feel how they feel, and share openly with the other children who have experienced a loss. They have made lifelong friendships… hospice has been a safe haven – and actually lots of fun for them,” explained Mom, who also participated in one-on-one counselling herself and took part in a hospice support group.
It was actually, in part, due to prompting from Lori that hospice developed a new traumatic loss support group to provide support for parents who have lost a child to suicide or substance use.
“I was honoured to participate in the first group, and knew I had found where I belonged,” she said. “I had finally found a place that I could talk about all of it… the stigma because of how he died; the conflict that existed before he died; the anger and remorse and most of all the deep sense of guilt that parents experience when they’ve lost a child.”
Slowly, she found her way – and she told the room of attentive listeners that it is in big part to the support she received from hospice.
“I have learned that I can laugh again and I have discovered – with time – that I am in a place in my life where I can be of support to other parents who have recently lost a child; someone who is maybe a few paces ahead and can reach back and walk beside others through a most devastating time in their lives,” she said.
“That’s the only way we can do this – together… I’ve learned that connecting with others who have had a similar loss, was important for me and my children. Being able to safely share, without judgment, with those who truly understand has been invaluable.”
She still has hard days, and so do her children.
“Some days the grief is so overwhelming that I don’t want to get out of bed – but I do, and I know when I’m struggling; when we’re struggling, that we have some place to turn.
“Langley Hospice Society works at helping all the pieces of the puzzle fit together to bring support, love and healing,” she said, expressing gratitude to the volunteers, staff and others grieving.
“Please give generously to help ensure this kind of support is available for people like me and my family – when we need it most.”
In part thanks to Lori’s prompting, people did give generously, said Shannon Todd Booth, the society’s acting executive director and fundraiser.
“The Plates and Glasses event was a phenomenal success,” Todd Booth said.
“Our goal was to have a conversation with our guests and hope that each one learned a little more about the work the Langley Hospice Society does and why it’s important for the children, teens, adults and families we serve – families like the Morison/Davies,” she said, concluding their mission was accomplished.
Donations were still being tallied Monday, but Todd Booth believes they have surpassed last year’s fundraising total.
“We’ve raised more than $32,000 this year. So proud of all the amazing volunteers and staff who helped pull the event together,” she said.
Among the donations received Saturday night, there was a $50 donation from Hayden Davies.
He donated the money his mom finally paid him for attending hospice all those years ago. He asked that the money be spent on books for the adult bereavement program (in honour of his mom) and a life-sized checkers game for the kids program.
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