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Light Up a Life: In memory of Robyn McLaughlin


My sister, Robyn, was a smarta**… There was this legendary eyebrow incident back in high school before Prom, where she and her friend decided to give each other a makeover. Robyn volunteered to be the guinea pig for eyebrow plucking. Picture this: she lies down all confident, and before you know it, half an eyebrow’s vanished into thin air! Then, they switched spots, and Robyn knew it was her moment for revenge – she plucked her friend’s entire eyebrow off! 

Robyn was my baby sister. She was born with a congenital heart disease and had open heart surgery at the age of 4. From that moment on, we were back to the typical sibling rivalry growing up! You could often hear us complaining “Well Dawn gets to this” and “Robyn got to do that.” She fiercely lived her life as our goofball, smarta** Robyn. 

So when Robyn died, we weren’t sure how to celebrate Christmas, which I think is common for people, right? Like, how do you change and adapt, especially around traditions and the holidays? Over the last 10 years, we’ve tried a couple of different things trying to find our way. And I think we’ve finally found our new tradition: Light Up A Life.

Last year I volunteered for the Light Up A Life gathering. It was a really special experience, to watch people gather in their groups and wait for their loved ones’ names and photos to appear. I could see as their people came up on the screen, there was a stillness, and calmness that came with “There she is!”.

Light Up A Life is giving people that space to allow people to speak their person names and allow them to still exist and be part of traditions. Our people are still in our hearts and our minds, so finding a way to bring them forward and keep their memories alive – especially at the holidays – is important to me. I’m honoured to have my sister’s name and photo on the community wall at Light Up A Life. Closer to Christmas, I know that Mom, Dad, and I will make our way to Hospice Halifax to sit and watch for Robyn’s goofy face. Our new holiday tradition gives us space to say her name, see her face, and share our memories.

A tradition that Robyn can be a part of – in a new way.

Hospice Halifax is a compassionate and supportive community of staff, volunteers, and donors dedicated to making dying and living as comfortable and as meaningful as possible at the end of life.  

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