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The Gift of Presence, by Michelle Brigham

(left to right) Michelle Brigham, Michael Arnett and Heather Goodchild at the L’Arche Daybreak Day Program.

I started volunteering at L’Arche Daybreak in 2010 and later became an assistant in the day programs until 2014. Little did I know it would become something much more meaningful than a volunteer experience. I ended up spending time in most of the day programs and developed significant relationships there. This is a story from my time at Daybreak that has stayed with me.

One day I was at the Day program where activities varied from cooking, to song and dance, shopping, and art. I was just returning to the community, after suffering a loss, and was treated gently my first day back – spending the morning with Heather.

I always appreciated Heather because even though she doesn’t speak, she communicated beautifully – you  knew what she wanted. I appreciated her forthrightness, and knew we’d get along well.

That day, I didn’t have much energy, and wasn’t my usual chipper self. Heather didn’t seem to mind. It was a bitter cold January day, so I went outside and got some fire wood and made a fire. Heather and I sat in front of the fire. It was very peaceful.

Not very many people knew my circumstance and definitely not Heather.

While sitting there, Heather reached out and gently rested her hand on mine. Heather usually only held hands while singing or clapping with an assistant. In that moment, she opened a door that had been locked and I couldn’t contain my feelings. Tears streamed down my face and I sobbed silently.

Heather may not have known my circumstance but she gave me the gift of presence and comfort and allowed me to grieve. She reminded me I wasn’t alone and played a significant role for me to find peace.

Small gif of the Daybreak 50 logoIn celebration of the 50th Anniversary of L’Arche Daybreak we are publishing contributions, stories and photos that illustrate the gifts of our community. Michelle lived in our community from 2010 – 2014 and now lives in Calgary with her husband and children.