You see her every day on your way to work. Usually she is sitting at Tim Horton’s or resting on a bench. She is hard to miss – a small woman, probably less than 100 pounds – wearing many layers of clothing which make her look even tinier. She is small but strong; carrying several bags as she walks quickly down the streets.
You have heard her mumbling to herself, or occasionally yelling at nobody in particular.
One day, you don’t see her at the Tim Horton’s. As the weeks pass, you wonder where she has gone…is she safe? Has anyone else noticed? You worry about the fate of this unknown woman.
But she is not unknown.
On the streets, she is known as La Petite Joanne – a kind and generous woman. She often shares her money with panhandlers and offers them her food. In turn, others on the streets look out for her and protect her.
By her family, she is known as Jocelyne. She grew up on the East coast, one of 10 children. She graduated high school and went on to become a secretary. Her career brought her to Ottawa, where she worked on Parliament Hill. She was proud of her work, and her family was proud of her too. It’s hard to imagine this woman, the woman muttering to herself on the streets, working for the federal government on Parliament Hill. But that is how swiftly and drastically schizophrenia can change a life. Her family remained loving and supportive. Although far away, they spoke to her often, visited, provided financial resources and attempted to get her medical care.
One day, her family received a call from Jocelyne. She was in hospital after having some health issues. During that call she recited the Lord’s Prayer with passion…
“Notre Père, qui es aux cieux, que ton nom soit sanctifié…”
Days later, they received word Jocelyne has passed away in hospital. They brought her back home to the east coast, where she was mourned by those who knew her as sister, aunt and friend.
Indeed, she was not unknown or forgotten.
At the funeral, the eulogist beautifully articulated this by saying “I am absolutely convinced that God knew Jocelyne….and I am equally convinced that she knew Him.”
At OIM we knew her too. And we shall miss her.
Moira, Youth Outreach Worker