ALMONTE, ON. -- Lynn Melbourne is crafting portraits of kindness and gifting them to families mourning loved ones at Almonte Country Haven.

COVID-19 claimed the lives of 28 residents in the Long Term Care home. The heartbreak is still felt deeply by the close-knit community, residents’ families, and staff.

“Truly the darkest days I’ve ever experienced in 29 years of healthcare,” said Carolyn Della Foresta, the home’s administrator. “To lose this number of residents, to experience what we have is not just professional, it’s profoundly personal, and it’s changed us forever.”

To help staff and residents cope with the crushing loss of life, artist Lynne Melbourne is making an offering of colour and light.

“It’s all I’ve done in the last three months,” said Melbourne.

Before COVID began, Melbourne had wanted to create some portraits of residents living in long-term care homes. Her mother was in one, and the drawings would be a tribute to her and her caregivers. When Melbourne searched Facebook for potential subjects, the artist found her inspiration.

“When I got to Country Haven’s page, before COVID, that’s what I saw. People being kind to people--I’m going to cry now, sorry--but that’s what I saw. People being kind to people,” she said.

Using photos of people she’d never met, Melbourne crafted some portraits and sent them to Almonte Country Haven. 

“I thought maybe this would give them some joy. Maybe this would help the residents’ families and staff because it must be hard. What a hard job. My job is easy,” she said.

“I remember crying. It just so happened that of the first five people that Lynn had selected off of Facebook, three of them had already passed away,” said Della Foresta.

“God has given her this incredible gift and she is now using her gift to be generous with others and kind. She has no affiliation with the home and the fact that she just reached out of compassion and kindness and concern, it was such a beautiful gesture.”

Lynn’s completed 40 portraits and plans to do more. They honour those still living at Almonte Country Haven and many who have passed. Peppy Mocko’s mother died on April 4th. She tested positive for COVID-19 and died at age 101.

“She found a home where she loved the people, she loved the staff, and I think it’s pretty mutual. This just tops everything off. That someone cared about these people beyond a working situation, she would have been so thrilled,” said Mocko.

Peppy Mocko

Omni, the owner of the home, is having Lynn’s work transferred to canvas. Copies will go to family members, while others will eventually form a commemorative tribute on the wall of the home.

“The families weren’t able to be with their loved ones during the pandemic. They had window visitations but weren’t actually able to go in and be with them while they were sick or during their last moments,” said Sheri Boyd of Epic Promotions.

“So, having these beautiful portraits, to be able to take them home, they can cherish that and have it as a memento of their loved ones.”

Melbourne, too, has plans for the originals she’s created.

“My plan is to gift the originals to the families. I won’t sell them, they’re not for sale. The plan is to give them to families because I think they deserve them,” she said.

And through Melbourne’s gesture, a stranger is now a welcome and treasured friend at Almonte Country Haven. Her artistic tribute is a reminder that we don’t need to know someone to care for them.

“Lynn has no obligation to us, whatsoever, and this is one of those examples where the goodness of humanity comes through,” said Della Foresta.

“The gift that she has, the beauty that she’s given us, it’s out of this world.”