Don Campbell with his daughter, Heather
Don Campbell, seen here with his daughter, Heather, celebrating his 80th birthday, died earlier this year. His wife, Fran, says it was comforting to attend the Service of Remembrance at Toronto General Hospital a few months later with other family and friends of those who had loved ones pass at UHN. (Photo: Courtesy Fran Campbell)

After being diagnosed with a benign pituitary tumor in the early 1970s, Don Campbell was one of the first people in Canada to receive Transsphenoidal surgery – a less invasive procedure done through the sinus – to remove the tumor at Toronto General Hospital (TG).

What followed was a long-term relationship with the UHN endocrinology team.

In February 2018, Don passed away at the age of 82.

A few months later, Don's widow, Fran Campbell, received an invitation to attend the UHN Service of Remembrance Ceremony at TG. The Service is a biannual event hosted at each UHN hospital.

For the past 10 years, UHN has hosted the Service of Remembrance every spring and fall to "give friends and family of loved ones who have passed at UHN another opportunity to say goodbye, which aids in the grieving process for families and staff," said Suraj George, Spiritual Care Practitioner, UHN.

"To be honest, I was a little surprised when I got the invitation," says Fran. "I didn't know what to expect." She says she was pleased to find that it, "felt nice and familiar to be back at Toronto General Hospital, it was healing to be back."

Fran says although the grieving process can be a lonely one, it was comforting to be around others who had recently lost loved ones.

"I saw all those people who felt the same way I did and instantly felt a bond," she says. "I felt consoled by all the people, and I really hadn't expected that."

Sense of closure for staff and families alike

We often have celebrations just for our own family member, but it is really special to participate along with others and see how each of us deals with our grief differently yet we all share our loss," Fran says.

Suraj says Fran's feelings are common among those who attend the ceremony.

"We have found these events bring a sense of closure for staff and families alike," Suraj says. 

"Friends and family members have expressed gratitude for the Service of Remembrance, many who return to the hospital for the first time following their loved one's death. We've heard many who also return as a way to say thanks for the care they've received at UHN."

For Fran it was especially meaningful to light a candle in Don's memory.

"It was touching to see that everyone could be a part of this human experience," Fran says.

"I am so grateful this hospital offered this opportunity."​

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