Volunteer Profile: Joan Garritty
Interview by Grace Hann
“As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands — one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.” — Audrey Hepburn
Growing up in Vancouver in the 50s was a wonderful experience—feeling the freedom to run and play outside without having to make play dates or the nervous fretting of parents. I grew up in Kitsilano with beaches everywhere, summertime was paradise! I loved the fusion of different cultures as there was an influx of immigration during this period. Teenage years were carefree and happy but as with everything, times change, it became time to act like an adult. I had often dreamt of being a nurse and it felt like a natural fit for me. Studying and continuous learning has always been a part of my life as I explored the various aspects of nursing.
Little did I know that my life partner had an eye on me in 1st grade. Of course I pushed away his attentiveness, after third grade our lives went in different directions. Romance has a tendency to pursue its passion and at 23 years old we met again and ramped it up a notch! Exploring and working in London was a great way to start our lives together—getting familiar with my parent’s history and learning about British culture, architecture and immensely enjoying the British wit!
After three years it was time to move back home and set up roots. I pursued nursing in geriatrics as this was an area which had always resonated with me. Losing both my parents at an early age gave me more empathy and understanding of grief and loss. I integrated this into my Nursing work as well in my work as an Integrated Healing Practioner. Helping others deal with death and dying as well as supporting caregivers became an area of dedication. Looking back on my career, I felt fulfilled but it was time to retire. What would this look like for me I asked?
One day, I was glancing through the JSA Senior Line magazine when I saw an ad for Senior Peer Support training. I immediately called, had an interview and was ready for the start of a different journey! While I thought I knew all communication skills from my career, I was surprised to know I had more to learn. I embraced and looked forward to each session. Just before completion, I was diagnosed with a life-threatening illness and shortly after I had to endure months of intense medical treatments. That is behind me and now I love the experience of sitting and listening to people as they trust me to tell me their stories. I leave with a smile on my face and a much lighter step. Life is always about learning and giving back. My life feels replete with so many joys. “One of the great joys and certainly an integral part of my life for the last 25 years plus is my love of dogs. I am a dedicated and loving owner and care giver of my four beautiful Bichons. “