Card for bereaved people dealing with loss during holiday season will raise funds for Hospice Society of the Columbia Valley

By Steve Hubrecht

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Canal Flats artist Leslie Cartwright has created a Christmas card as a fundraiser to help the Hospice Society of the Columbia Valley. This is no ordinary Christmas card, however, but one designed specifically for people having a difficult time during the holidays because they are dealing with the loss of a loved one.

The image on the card, which is a watercolour, depicts a winter scene with footprints in a snowy field leading toward a distant solitary tree, with a full moon floating in a darkening evening sky behind. Three large snowflakes also hang in the deep blue-black firmament, one of which doubles as a compass showing the cardinal directions.

Cartwright lost her brother-in-law to a tragic drowning accident in Canal Flats in summer 2020, and when last Christmas arrived she wanted to send a card to her family members, but couldn’t find an appropriate one.

“It was looking all over. It felt callous to send a regular Christmas card to people that I knew weren’t having a Merry Christmas,” Cartwright told the Pioneer. “So I painted watercolour cards because I wanted something very special, something that acknowledges the loss.”

For Cartwright, the image has plenty of personal meaning as well as universal meaning. The snowflake compass is there because Cartwright’s brother-in-law loved compasses. And because “when you’re bereaved, you’re lost. You have trouble finding your way,” she said. The single track of footprints in the snow indicates that “grief is lonely. It’s like slugging through snow. It’s tough. If there ever was a path, it’s been covered over and it’s slippery. But yet the whole scene is peaceful,” explained Cartwright. “The moon is there, because you’re always moving toward something bright. Even though you know you’ll never get to it, you can’t realistically reach it, you keep moving on that journey toward it.”

Noting that “grief often outlasts sympathy,” Cartwright said the second Christmas without a loved one can be even harder than the first. “There can be a huge rush of support from friends, family and acquaintances that first Christmas after you lose somebody,” she said. “But then the world moves on, and then that second Christmas becomes the first one you go through feeling totally alone.”

Cartwright expressed deep gratitude to the Hospice Society for making her own journey through grief less lonely, adding that’s part of the reason she wants to give back by making the Christmas card.

“It is a card you can send at Christmas time to those who have lost someone, with the message that the memory of those they’ve lost stays all year,” Hospice Society board president Daneve McAffer told the Pioneer.

The card is available for purchase at Lambert Kipp Pharmacy and Inspire Floral Boutique in Invermere, La Galleria II in Fairmont Hot Spring, and the Village Social in Canal Flats. A total of 150 cards have been printed, with support from the Headwaters Arts Society in Canal Flats, and if these all sell out, more can be printed.

“Christmas is one of the hardest times of the year for people who have lost a loved one,” said McAffer. “Hopefully, this card can help them.”

McAffer expressed gratitude to Cartwright and also to the many other volunteers who help the Hospice Society make a difference.

The Hospice Society will also be hosting its annual Hospice Tree of Lights ceremony on Thursday, Dec. 9, at 6:30 p.m. at the Healing Garden in Invermere, as well as at the Discovery Centre in Canal Flats, on the deck at the Lions’ Club in Fairmont, and at the village office in Radium.

People can purchase a light in memory of a loved one to put on the tree. The event will be live streamed through the Hospice Society’s Facebook page.