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Arliss – Making Sweet Music Together, by Anne Todd

Arliss and the Whale

Arliss was a small woman with a big heart, a sense of mischief and a strong stubborn streak.  She loved her brother Bruce, and through him, anything to do with motorcycles. She loved her housemates, including John Smeltzer, who was like another older brother, Robin Steel and Michael Barrett. She also came to love the assistants at New House, after a period of testing sometimes. It was so sweet to hear her say fondly, of assistants, “my Emily, my Anne.” She loved animals. And was most happy letting Benny, the therapy dog who used to come to New House, cover her face in doggie kisses.


Another love of Arliss’s was music. She could frequently be found sitting cross-legged on the couch, perhaps with her knitting, listening to one of her favourites, like Kenny Rogers. She loved playing her rhythm sticks, gradually gaining the confidence to move from playing them in the privacy of home, to standing up and playing at the front of the Dayspring, at the end of the service, excitedly saying afterwards, “I did it, I played my sticks!”


Not everyone may be aware of how well she sang. For a number of years, when I played at the carol service and at the Sheraton dinner, Arliss would sit beside me on the piano bench, singing her heart out as we did the familiar carols and songs. Her passion and delight was heart-warming. Sadly, dementia took hold of Arliss and she had to move to Marianne home. She gradually spoke less and less, but she still responded when the Day Program pastoral team would sing the old songs as they visited her.


Once, when Regi, a New House assistant, was leaving the community, funds were sufficient that Arliss, Mehri (another core member), Regi and I were able to go away for a “girls’ overnight” to a beautiful spa near Orangeville. Arliss was excited to go but her spirits flagged the longer that we were there. She consented to a partial manicure but wasn’t impressed by the delicious food. The highlight of the trip for Arliss was stopping for lunch at McDonald’s on the way home. That said, Arliss was always willing to try and more often than not, was successful in helping. She did it kindly and without complaint.  And she is missed.