Tagged: Janet Moore
The late Janet Moore, the founder of l’Arche Cape Breton who was profiled here on her death in 2010, was a huge fan of Rita MacNeil. Janet’s friend Mary MacDougall arranged for the two to meet at Rita’s Tea Room on her 60th birthday, in 2007.
Jenn Power, Atlantic Regional Co-ordinator for l’Arche (and my daughter-in-law) described the event on her blog.
Those of us who love Janet were more than a little apprehensive as we prepared for the celebration. Janet is getting old, and showing her age. As with so many people with Down Syndrome, dementia is slowly creeping in and stealing Janet’s peace, her humour, her independence, her ability to enjoy life. Intense emotion can overwhelm her, and this day would surely be filled with that. Having to keep to a rigid schedule, once something she demanded and loved, can now leave her in tears. So we crossed our fingers, surrounded Janet with people she knows and who know her, and off we went.
The brilliant sun over the blue waters of the Bras d’Or as we drove through Eskasoni and East Bay seemed to be a good omen. We arrived at the Tearoom in good spirits, having sung along with Rita on the CD player the whole drive down. With a friend on each arm, Janet plodded up the ramp into the Tearoom….
Before long, Janet caught sight of Rita. She squinted up her eyes, as she often does to help her focus, and tilted her head slightly to one side as she worked to connect what she must have imagined was a mirage with what evidently was becoming a reality. As everything clicked into place, she quietly, and with a sense of disbelief and wonder, exclaimed, “Rita!” In a manner fitting her age and the occasion, Janet slowly walked toward her idol, looked closely into Rita’s face to make sure she wasn’t dreaming, then gently wrapped her arms around Rita’s shoulders, placed her head on Rita’s chest, and smiled. This smile did not dim or fade once during the two hours we spent with Rita at lunch!
The lunch was lovely. Rita was an absolute gem, making small talk with our strange crew of friends. She had no trouble joining in Janet’s typical teasing – “chicken legs”, “old hen”, “you’re cracking up.” Although Janet simply would not stand for anyone to call Rita an old hen!
Several times during lunch, Janet would gaze at the photo of Rita on the CD she clutched in her hand (a CD, incidentally, that Rita had given her, signed, as a birthday gift) and then look up at Rita, in the flesh, sitting right next to her at the table. This seemed to be a wonder that Janet could barely comprehend. And then she would tune into the music coming over the speakers, which was (of course) Rita MacNeil. She would look up at the speakers, at her CD, then again toward her host, in absolute amazement. This woman was even more incredible that Janet had imagined!
After a delicious lunch, and what seemed like endless hugs, we prepared to leave. I linked Janet over to the guest book, where her shaking hand and deteriorating vision made it virtually impossible for her to write much. But she did her best, telling me she had written her name and “I love you, Rita.” And on that note, we left to drive home.
I believe that we discover what is holy, sacred, mysterious, through our relationships with others, and those few hours with Janet were filled with holiness and mystery – and not just the mystery of how Rita could be sitting at our table and singing on the PA at the same time! But that visit to the Tearoom with Janet brought me back to what is means to live a life of gratitude, to be present to each moment, to embrace my own vulnerability and allow it to bring me closer to others instead of isolate me from them.
Incidentally, Rita, unbidden, picked up the tab for Janet and the 10 l’Arche friends she brought along for the birthday celebration. Quite a lady.
Christian Lüdde of Germany, who worked as an assistant at L’Arche Cape Breton in 2002 and 2003, writes:
I… was fortunate to live [in Janet Moore‘s residence].I very much appreciate the way Jenn kept us informed on Janet’s state and I also appreciate the very appropriate words you found to briefly describe Janet’s impact. You are right, it is hard to overstate her impact on L’Arche Cape Breton and many individuals like me. Janet was nothing short of a moral authority for me, a role model that I slowly learned to accept. So I thank you for your article and try to think that remembering somebody like Janet makes me sad, but really should make me smile and feel warm in my heart. Because this is her legacy.
Janet Evaline Moore, founder of L’Arche Cape Breton, died peacefully last night at her home in Orangedale, two days before her 63rd birthday.
Tom and Ann Gunn invited Janet to live with their family in 1983, marking the start of an intentional community that is now home to some 25 Core Members and a varied group of assistants from Cape Breton and around the world.
Janet Moore was a gentle, funny, loving woman, with an out-sized capacity to move and inspire people around her. She and her long-time friends, Cathy Brady and Mary LeBlanc, the Old Hens, enlivened events at L’Arche with a running commentary from the sidelines — a cross between a comical Greek chorus and a kinder, gentler version of the Muppets’ Statler and Waldorf.
Janet adored the Cape Breton singer Rita MacNeil, who graciously hosted a 60th birthday party for her at Rita’s Tea Room in 2007.
Over the last two years, Janet underwent the steep decline that often overtakes people with Down Syndrome in their 50s and 60s. She spent her last days at The Vinyard, a L’Arche residence in Orangedale, surrounded by friends who stroked her hair, held her hands, and sang quietly to her.
“Our community is making a significant passage as we say goodbye to Janet,” Community Leader Jenn Power wrote in an email to L’Arche friends early this morning. “We know life will feel different now, but we know just as surely that Janet’s faithfulness to the mission of L’Arche will continue to be our example.”
It is difficult to overstate the impact Janet had on everyone at L’Arche, or the sadness that will be felt there, and among the far flung diaspora of former L’Arche assistants around the world.
The wake will take place from 10:00 am to 9:00 pm on Janet’s birthday, Saturday, at The Vineyard in Orangedale. The funeral will be at 2 p.m., Sunday, in the L’Arche Chapel at Iron Mines, with a reception to follow in Orangedale.
This thread (starting here and here) questioning efforts to “cure” Down syndrome began with a quick email from Jenn Power, community leader at L’Arche Cape Breton, mother of identical twins with Down syndrome, and—disclosure—Contrarian‘s daughter-in-law.
At Contrarian’s request, she has elaborated:
In the end, for me, this all comes back to people. Josh, Jacob, Mary, Cathy, Kate, Janet…these people have Down Syndrome. These people are my family, my friends, my teachers. Without the benefit of that extra chromosome, they would not be who they are. Their intellectual “impairment” gives them an insight and an emotional intelligence and maturity that I can only aspire to. They do not need a needle in their brain to make them more functional, to help them find their car keys. What they need is a society that values what they have to offer. I would like to think that I can be a part of creating that society
Full post after the jump.