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On March 5, 2019, a memorial service was held for Itee, a resident of The Ottawa Mission’s Hospice.

The Hospice is a very special place where homeless men and women receive 24-hour palliative nursing care, and vital emotional and spiritual support, in the final days of their lives – provided with compassion and dignity by Mission staff and volunteers, and partner agency staff.

When someone dies, a memorial service is always held in our chapel to allow friends, family and staff to mourn and provide solace to one another. And so it was on March 5th with Itee’s family, many friends, and care providers in attendance – more than 60 people in all.

Itee was an Inuit woman who came from a large family in Nunavut. Two of her children, her sister, and many nieces and nephews came to her service, offering stories of unending love, warmth, and kindness – stories that were echoed by friends and neighbours who were touched by Itee in their lives.

Itee had borne significant burdens, tragedy and loss in her life, but she had done so with remarkable courage, resiliency, and empathy towards others. This power of unconditional acceptance, supported by a merciful spirit, was very much in evidence at her service. Many spoke of Itee’s influence on them, which nourished their own ability to deal with loss.  It was a moving experience to hear of the life of someone who, although often marginalized by others, nonetheless always smiled and greeted everyone with “good morning” and treated everyone with respect.

Itee loved to be outside. On her corner down the street from The Mission she would often spend time enjoying her independence and community. We at The Mission and those passing by who spoke with her daily will not forget this as we pass by that corner, remembering with fondness her smile and the sense of inclusion she embodied.

Itee’s powerful lesson of openness and acceptance is her unending legacy at The Mission.