John’s Story: A Legacy of Community-Centred Culture and Care
At the core of every world class community are people who care — people who care about the work they do, the community they live in and the chance to make a meaningful difference. In our community, every single person has the ability to profoundly affect our future for the better. When you leave a gift in your Will to a cause or organization you care about deeply, you leave a legacy that will help ensure a vibrant future right here for all of us.
Grand River Hospital is one of the many causes (Rev.) John Lougheed has chosen to support with a gift in his Will. As a retired Director of the Spiritual Care Department, Grand River Hospital is an organization that remains close to John’s heart, particularly because of the way holistic and spiritual care are woven into the hospital’s culture and community.
Spiritual Care is a part of providing patient-centred care that is primarily about connecting with people and journeying with them, usually at a time of great need. While religion can certainly be a part of Spiritual Care for some, you don’t need to identify as being religious to access or benefit from this type of care — Spiritual Care professionals are sensitive to all different beliefs, values and cultural and religious backgrounds.
“Whatever people’s tradition, belief or lack thereof … we’re all spiritual beings,” said John.
John has been a member of our local community since 1998. He came to Kitchener from Vancouver, where he’d been working at Vancouver General Hospital, to take a position as one of the Ministers at Calvary Memorial United Church, a congregation not far from the hospital. At this time, Grand River was a leading hospital in what was then known as Pastoral Care, both in terms of clinical pastoral education and community partnerships; beginning during the Second World War, the first chaplain of the hospital was actually also a minister at Calvary Memorial. This remarkable history, leadership and commitment to Spiritual Care was, in part, what originally drew John to relocate to Kitchener.
When Grand River Regional Cancer Centre opened in 2003, John had the opportunity to become a full-time member of the Spiritual Care team — made up of staff, students, volunteers, and other community partners — at Grand River Hospital, where he worked for the next 15 years until his retirement in 2017. While John worked at several hospitals throughout his career, there was something about Grand River, in particular, that stood out to him.
“Almost right away, I was very taken with what I understand to be the mandate of the hospital going back to 1895,” John recalled. He, of course, was referring to the mandate of the Seagram family, who donated the land upon which the hospital’s Kitchener-Waterloo Campus was built – when they gave this land to the hospital, it was on the condition that no patient would ever be denied care because of their race, creed, beliefs or lack thereof.
“Imagine saying in 1895 that if you didn’t profess a faith – which wasn’t very many people publicly anyway – you couldn’t be denied care?” John marvelled, noting that even then, more than 125 years ago, “there was a sense of the importance of care for the human spirit,” at Grand River, and it continues to be an integral aspect of care to this day.
At Grand River Hospital, the essence of Spiritual Care extends far beyond the department’s team and their patient care colleagues. It has become a part of all aspects of the hospital’s culture and what John refers to as, “the community of the hospital,” which encompasses patients, families, staff, physicians, students, volunteers, faith community partners and visitors alike. This set Grand River apart from some of the hospitals he had worked at in the past, particularly when his supervisor, Sue Robertson, VP, Clinical Programs, decided to incorporate Spiritual Care as a part of her plan to support hospital staff in an unprecedented way.
“She indicated that we were to spend up to ten percent of our time supporting staff,” John said of her expectation for the hospital’s Spiritual Care team. “[When] I talked to some of my colleague managers across the province, none of them had such a mandate. None.”
While it was these types of values and experiences that prompted John to give back to the hospital, it was one of his mentors, Dr. Donna Ward, who inspired him to have the foresight to plan ahead for the end of life and leave a gift to the hospital in his Will.
“I think often of an adage from Dr. Ward, somebody I worked with for many years at Grand River,” John said. “She would say to her colleagues, let alone the families we served, ‘We should all plan for our death, and then get on with our living!’ And there’s a lot to that, you know. As the lead of the Palliative Care team she’d add, ‘I expect my colleagues to have these conversations with their own families as well as the families we are serving.’”
However, making a Will is not just about planning for the end of life, John noted – it’s also about ensuring your legacy will continue after you have died.
“In Christianity, there is an understanding of something called eternal life, which is not limited to our tradition. It’s an understanding that one’s spirit lives on with God as well as in the lives of those we have loved and been loved by. I believe that part of our eternal life is how we leave our financial legacy,” he explained, adding that even though some of us may not all have a lot to give, “if everybody did what they could, we’d have a lot, wouldn’t we?”
John’s gift to Grand River Hospital will have a lasting impact on the entire community of the hospital. Care extends far beyond patients and simply addressing the physical symptoms someone is experiencing. His gift will help ensure whole-person care that accounts for one’s mental and spiritual health will be available to anyone and everyone at the hospital who needs it.
Grand River is also by no means the only organization he plans to support. In fact, John has included a number of causes and organizations that are important to him as beneficiaries in his Will, and he hopes that his decision to leave these gifts might inspire others to consider doing the same. Having worked in health care for many years, he knows firsthand that not only does a gift make an impact on hospital programs, but it has the potential to change lives.
Planning a charitable gift to Grand River Hospital as part of your legacy is a way to make a lasting difference for every parent, friend, neighbour and local family in our community. A gift in your Will not only supports our health and well-being, but you will continue to make a meaningful difference even after you’re gone. Your legacy will impact health care for generations to come, ensuring a bright future and the best possible care for your children, grandchildren and their families as our community comes together to build the future of care right here.