From the outside looking in, Linda Funk’s life looked pretty good. She had a small circle of friends, dedicated supporters and helpful staff. Linda had an active social calendar full of Brandon Wheat Kings games, visits with her sister, dinners with friends and occasional trips out of town. But, something was missing…Linda’s past.
Linda’s adult life had been spent in the care of foster families, agencies for adults living with disabilities and an institution. With each placement, Linda lost more connections and pieces of her life. As family members passed away, there was no one there to help her maintain ties and keep track of where the remaining friends and family had gone. There was no one telling those friends and family where Linda had gone either.
For the past ten years, Linda has been an employer in the supported living model, “In the Company of Friends” (ICOF). This has enabled her to live in a nice home, spending her days as she likes with the help of her support network and caring staff team.
Over those years, Linda would mention different people from different places, but no one around her could talk about where they were now, if they were still alive, or how to contact them. So, when LIFE (the resource agency that provides resources and support to people who choose ICOF) created “Options for Services” it spawned an exciting opportunity for Linda to reconnect with her past.
“Options for Services” helps with the “extra” things that staff and support network members may not have the time or energy to do. By contracting with “Options”, Linda was able to begin her journey of rediscovering her personal history.
Starting the search was not easy. The contract staff had a list of towns and people’s names but not necessarily any connection between the two. However, after a lot of cold calls and “Googling”, a picture slowly began to come together. As a result, Linda has now reconnected with her former foster parent, an Uncle in Russell, friends from Virden and a cousin out in BC! These people help her to revisit memories that otherwise would have remained buried.
Beyond the reconnections was another surprise, a new connection and a new friend! Through the process, the name, Ruth Doern-Winkler, from Morden, surfaced. Ruth, who died in 2005 at the age of 95, was an incredibly caring and dedicated lady who had helped Linda and her sister in earlier years, and had become a steadfast friend to Linda. Ruth had in fact helped many children and families throughout her career as a social worker, dedicating her life to looking out for those who could not always do so for themselves. Ruth’s amazing life was documented in a book called “Waltzing Through the Century: The Life and Times of Ruth Doern-Winkler” by author Diana Wiebe, also from the Morden area, who had been mentored by and was close friends with Ruth.
The author, Diana Wiebe, was contacted in hopes that the common thread of their friendships with Ruth might lead to more answers in Linda’s search. That request started a chain of events that not only saw Linda receive a copy of the book about Ruth from Diana, but a lovely visit in Morden this past July! Diana took the time out of her life to show Linda and her sister around the town that they remembered from childhood, having lunch at “Warky’s” then driving out to the cemetery to pay tribute to Ruth and to Linda’s parents and brothers. The day connected some pieces and put them in place, answering many questions. The great thing though is that, out of this a new connection was created for Linda to a woman who is caring, thoughtful and very much like Ruth herself!
It was an extraordinary day that reminded all involved of the possibilities that can happen when time is invested to help someone reconnect with their past and their story. Because sometimes those old connections can lead us to new connections and relationships, which is what being “In the Company of Friends” is all about.
For more information about ICOF, please go to our website www.icof-life.ca