For the first time in 10 years, our community was ecstatic to welcome a new core member, Sarah Keyes, to live at McKim House! In a year of uncertainty, Sarah’s arrival in October filled us with anticipation and excitement; already, she brings so much joy and laughter into our community. We could not be more thrilled with this transition, including the magnitude of support from the Keyes family. What follows is a reflection written by one of Sarah’s siblings, Connie.
MOVING DAY FOR SARAH
Being the youngest of 7 children must be hard. It seems like a waiting game really. Watching each of your older siblings grow up, graduate from high school and move on to university, get their own homes and their independence, I’m sure my sister Sarah always wondered….”when is it going to be my turn to have my own home and my independence?”
My parents raised our large catholic family with a base of love and support. A large home filled on every special occasion with extended family, laughter, and fun. Little did they know that poor health would take their retirement years so quickly having Dad pass-away 2 years ago and losing our mother to her journey into dementia. Through it all, my siblings and I have been keenly aware that we didn’t have an answer to the question, “what is the best life situation for Sarah?”
Sarah has always been “the glue that keeps our family together.” Drawing us to one another in good times and bad, to rally our forces to celebrate an accomplishment, or problem solve through adversity. No matter where in the world life took us, Sarah was never out of our thoughts. It makes sense that all of my siblings have returned to Saint John to establish careers and raise families. Sarah’s gift to all of us was to teach us empathy, patience, and kindness.
All six of Sarah’s siblings, followed our father’s footsteps and graduated from St. F.X. University in Antigonish, Nova Scotia. There we were introduced to the L’Arche community and the exceptional quality of life it offered to people with intellectual challenges. In our family, we have always said that we have guardian angels watching over us that bring people into our lives in times of need. As we were trying to make informed decisions about Sarah’s future, a friend recounted a story the day she visited McKim house in the course of her work, and that it was the “most joyous place she had ever seen”. She described an environment where each core member is treated with respect, where their choices are valued, and everyone has a voice in planning activities. All our dreams for Sarah. L’Arche…. the answer to our prayers.
When we think back to the idea that Sarah had been in a holding pattern for most of her life, it is now clear….she was waiting for the chance for a home of her own, with friends and a support crew helping her be successful. This opportunity to have Sarah be part of L’Arche has meant the world...it is Sarah’s turn to graduate and succeed and shine. I must say the Keyes’, as a family, can be quite overwhelming, especially when you include the 20 nieces and nephews. Now Sarah does not have to fit in to our family routines, but rather we get to play a supportive role as Sarah’s cheerleaders, stepping up when needed.
We have already seen, with Sarah living at McKim house for just a short time, that a weight of loneliness has been lifted off her. She is chatty and so pleased with her new roles within the house. To see Debbie teaching Sarah how to set the table, and Krista approving of her new room set up, makes our hearts soar. The feeling that the staff are there because they want to be, as though it is a calling they have, to bring joy to the lives of the core members and, by extension, to their families. The thought of Sarah and her friends watching movies and celebrating together for birthdays and occasions gives us such peace of mind knowing that we have made the right decision. We have the best of all worlds. Sarah gets to participate in family activities with us, but she gets to decide what she wants to do….we love that!! Freedom and independence that comes with being respected as an adult.
For us, the fact that Sarah now lives at McKim house with her wonderful co-core members is the greatest blessing to our family. We could not be prouder to be part of the L’Arche Saint John family and look forward to years of happiness to come.
Sarah Keyes’ Sister