Mother's Day came and went and in many ways it was very different than previous years. Then again, everything is different now. For many the rules around the pandemic meant saluting, from a distance, mothers and everything they do to make the world a better place. In the process, mothers gathered close to living room windows and too close to video chat cameras and they waved and smiled and cried. Their arms empty. Their heart full. Still, the barriers to contact, the inability to hug and hold, meant a greater distance and a bigger void.
Yet in many ways this Mother's Day was the same as last year, and the year before, and every year before that. Mothers were celebrated for the sacrifices they make, the love they give and the care they share. The care and the worry that they have for those around them, especially their children.
A recent exchange between a mother and her son mirrored relationships during this pandemic. "I'm worried I won't see you," the elder mother said to her 67-year-old son who lives alone in Toronto. He reassured her that as soon as COVID-19 restrictions to distancing were lifted he would visit her in cottage country. Four days later he died unexpectedly.
She was right to worry. Was it mother's intuition? Haven Toronto would tell you, from experience, that mothers just always worry about their children, no matter the age.
Haven Toronto, a downtown drop-in centre for elder homeless men, regularly hears from mothers who inquire into the health and wellbeing of sons who are living in poverty and are homeless and isolated. While careful with what can be shared, staff at the only facility of its kind in Canada fully share a mother's concern.
For the thousands of clients who are supported by Haven Toronto, the drop-in centre isn't home, but it is family.
Days ago another client passed away. In his early sixties, he had been ill and in palliative care for months. He made a point to visit Haven Toronto every day and Haven Toronto made a point to be there for him, and for his family, right to the very end.
For those who cannot be there, whether it’s due to distance or distancing, Haven Toronto is a vital source of hope and relief. Not just mothers, but fathers, siblings and friends of clients will tell you they appreciate everything that Haven Toronto does to provide for and support some of the most vulnerable members in the community.
In a recent note to Haven Toronto one woman wrote, "These are such difficult times, but for some much more difficult. You provide such amazing support to very vulnerable people. Over these last years, the sense of community and belonging that Dan had at Haven sustained him.”
Haven Toronto serves thousands annually, providing clients with a safe, welcoming space where they can access a full-time nurse and part-time doctor and dental hygienist, plus crisis and housing counsellors and dedicated support care workers. Last year, Haven Toronto provided over 50,000 healthy meals and 13,000 articles of emergency clothing, much the result of donations including through the centre's online store, www.shophaventoronto.ca, where family and friends and anyone can donate meals for a day, week, month and more.