Northwood's silk flowers bloom for those who died in COVID-19 outbreak

As life at Halifax's Northwood long-term care facility starts to return to normal, people from around the Maritimes are reaching out to the care home to help memorialize the lives lost due to COVID-19. 

The contributions are brightening the private garden at Northwood where families are meeting again for the first time in months.

Elizabeth Riddell of Indian Fields, Shelburne County, arranges silk flowers and wanted to create bouquets for each of the more than 60 families in the province who lost a member. 

Northwood was home to 53 of those people, so she reached out to the care home and asked if staff could ensure the bouquets were available for all the families to take one if they wish. She said she wanted to send a message to each of the families. 

"You're not alone," she said. "Pain is something that is shared. COVID-19 robbed families of being able to say goodbye properly. They were robbed the ability to be by the sides of loved ones."

Riddell and her husband lost her father-in-law, Brian J. Riddell, a year ago when he died in British Columbia. They were unable to be with him for his last days. 

Submitted by Northwood

Riddell arranged all of the flowers differently, so families could view them all and pick one that reflected the uniqueness of their loved one. 

"If there was one that was full of oranges to say they loved fall," she said. "Or if there was one that was just a wee little bit sparkly, it may have been the glitz and glamour of someone who loved the glitz and glamour." 

The arrangements are made of silk to look as realistic as possible. They will last between four to six months. There are also arrangements meant for families of people who died outside of Northwood. 

'Absolutely breathtaking'

The facility is spending a bit of time enjoying the bouquets all together and then will make arrangements for family members to come and select one, said Janet Simm, the CEO of Northwood. 

"It is absolutely breathtaking to see the colour in that space," Simm said. "And what's more breathtaking is when you see a family member or a resident taking a moment and stopping to look at the flowers and doing what they're intended to do, to remember and take the time to mourn." 

Submitted by Northwood

Simm said it is a beautiful backdrop for where outdoor family visits are restarting. By the end of this week all residents will have their first visit. 

Stone bench

The garden will also get a stone bench donated by a New Brunswick company. 

Northwood contacted Smet Monuments of St. Stephen, N.B., to ask about doing a stone dedication tile. Jarvis Spires, the business development manager at Smet Monuments, said his company decided the facility deserved something bigger. 

"With the amount of loss they've had there, we felt it was worthwhile to do something more and something special for them," he said. 

The company is making a polished grey granite memorial bench. It will be engraved with a dedication to the residents who lost their lives and placed in the garden. 

Spires said COVID has hit close to home for him, after his cousin spent about two weeks in hospital before recovering from the coronavirus. The bench is still being worked on and Spires hopes to ship it to Northwood in the coming weeks.  

There have been no active cases at Northwood since June 10. Simm said the facility is anticipating public health will declare the outbreak officially over soon. 

MORE TOP STORIES