The Village Playhouse looks different now than it did when Hospice North Hastings first took over the lease in the spring of 2015 and a big part of that visual refresh has been provided by local artist and Hospice volunteer Richard Baynes.
Baynes is a fixture in the theatre where he is often painting, curating a new art exhibit or just sharing a few laughs. With his wild white hair and a smile that melts through the worst days, he’s an integral part of the Playhouse volunteer team. As someone who was supported by Hospice, Baynes knows the importance of the work he is doing.
Baynes connected with Hospice when the love of his life, Laurie Ann Storring, was diagnosed with terminal cancer.
“She made the decision early on to use Hospice,” Baynes said. “She went to see Heather, Bonnie and the Hospice House. She took care of that.”
Making this decision gave Baynes access to the support he needed and after 14 exhausting months as a caregiver, it was time for Laurie Ann to move into the Hospice House for her final days.
“I knew what was coming,” Baynes says. “The process was mentally challenging – exhausting because I always had to be on my toes 24/7 but then when she stopped taking the meds and stopped eating it was time and I made the call and the paramedics came to pick Laurie Ann up.”
Baynes said it was heartbreaking to leave their home – their dog cried – somehow knowing. But once she was at the Hospice House Baynes could finally relax.
“She was in excellent hands and she was receiving excellent care and I was so relieved.”
Their kids came to offer support and Baynes said it was amazing to be able to leave the Hospice House, knowing Laurie Ann was safe, and walk down the street to the pub and to have a meal. He says for the first time in months it felt like he could breathe again because he knew she would be fine.
Baynes connected with the Hospice Team including Hospice Coordinator Heather Brough.
“Heather was so wonderful,” Baynes says. “She was like a sister – totally honest and she talked about what was happening and about what would happen. All the steps.”
And after Laurie Ann died Richard would return to the House every once and a while. On one of his early visits he brought a piece of art that he had worked on with Laurie Ann, an advent project highlighting love, peace, joy and hope. Laurie Ann had been a United Church Minister and this beautiful piece found a permanent home in the House and Baynes kind of did too.
His visits increased and he started helping with projects. He moved through grief surrounded by a new group of friends and colleagues and he gave from his heart constantly.
“These people are a great bunch to work with,” Baynes laughs. “This is good.”
Richard Baynes has a collection of his art, much of it created in partnership with his late wife, on display in the lobby of the Village Playhouse until January. Beyond this special show, his personal touches, his joy and the grief that he is working through will be forever woven into the fabric of the Village Playhouse and the Hospice House for North Hastings. Baynes hopes that his support of Hospice will help others in the future.