Artist offers hope and healing with Wall of Gratitude

“My family lives in those pictures.”  

Faced with tragedy, many turn inward. Artist Lorraine Oberg chose a different path, turning grief into gratitude by donating her work to the Misericordia Community Hospital.

An accomplished artist, Lorraine had previously hung paintings in the hospital for exhibitions. After losing her brother four years ago, she decided to take it one step further.

Grateful for the excellent care her family received at the Misericordia and Edmonton General Continuing Care Centre over the years, Lorraine wanted to do something tangible for the hospital community and honour her family at the same time.

“She was very emotional when she came to me and offered to donate her art,” says Brenda Shim, Manager of Volunteer Services at the Misericordia. “I was expecting one or two paintings, but she gave us over 20!”

The challenge then was where to hang it all.

Pick a wall, any wall

“We don’t have a lot of white space available," says Brenda. "Fortunately, Jan Schimpf, Senior Operating Officer, saw the vision and meaning in this and said, ‘Take it all.’"

Given the motivation behind the project, “Wall of Gratitude” was the perfect name. They wrote it in big letters by the administration office and placed most of the art underneath, with the remainder going to the ICU and the psychiatric wing.

In giving back, Lorraine is paying it forward to others who now walk in her shoes.

“Most people who come here have family that are sick or dying. By seeing these angels on the wall they may find hope amidst their grief. I want them to know that this is not the end,” says Lorraine, “that you can honour people in other ways and keep them alive as long as you’re alive.”

Lorraine donated 22 paintings to the Misericordia Community Hospital. Most are hung under the banner "Wall of Gratitude" in one hallway on the main floor.

Those “angels” all hold special meaning for Lorraine.

In addition to honouring her family, Lorraine wished to recognize those other angels: the hospital staff at the Misericordia and Edmonton General who made her family feel like their family. With loved ones, it’s often the little gestures that mean a lot.

“When my dad was in the Misericordia with lung cancer, the oxygen made him thirsty so he often requested orange pop from the cafeteria, saying, ‘Please take a quarter and get me some.’”

Later that year, her grandfather was admitted and made the same drink request.

“He asked for an orange pop and the nurse inquired if he was related to the gentleman who was there some time ago, namely my dad. She had remembered! What a special place that brings us into the world, cares for us while we are here, comforts us when we leave and remembers us long after we’re gone.”

Art imitates life

"Alphie," which features a man playing a violin, was inspired by a dear friend who performed at the funeral for Ernie, Lorraine's late brother.

For Lorraine, the role art played in her family growing up gives the Wall of Gratitude added significance.

“Art and music were everything in our household. Dad would sit on the porch playing the fiddle while Mom created towels from flower sacks that she saved and embroidered. They didn’t have money to buy these things, so she made everything.”

Her gift for painting emerged early on and blossomed during her time at the Banff School of Fine Arts and her visits to Paris to study the masters. Now that she has applied that gift in creating the Wall of Gratitude, she feels the journey is complete.

“My mission is done; I have honoured my family.”

Her work may be over, but she will be grateful if it helps someone else whose journey toward hope and healing has just begun.

A photo gallery of Lorraine's loved ones

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