Planned Giving: A Legacy of Love
Toni Van Bommel (1940-2021)
by Patricia Berendsen
Mom and I were having lunch as we did regularly. We treasured our mother-daughter dates. While we were enjoying a decadent brownie sundae together, mom made an “out of the blue” suggestion. “When I die, I want donations to go to the Community Counselling Centre of London (CCCL). Will you do that for me?” Needless to say, some tears accompanied our dessert as I whispered between the waves of love and sadness, “Of course I will!”
I co-founded the not-for-profit Community Counselling Centre of London with Alida van Dijk. My mom, unbeknownst to her, was the first person in CCCL’s herstory to direct funeral donations to her charity of choice, the Community Counselling Centre of London. Mom’s reason for this direction was two-fold. She wanted to support my involvement with CCCL and secondly, she wanted to support mental health services. Mom was a mental health consumer with multiple hospitalizations to manage her symptoms of severe depression or mania related to her bipolar diagnosis.
My two younger brothers and I knew all too well the impact of living with a parent who struggled with mental health challenges. Mom suffered with a bipolar disorder which was a burden she carried for all of her adult life. Mom’s chronic illness wasn’t diabetes, or heart disease, or cancer, or a stroke…it was her bipolar diagnosis.
We know a lot more about mental health today…but sixty years ago, it was a different story. Even today we still have stigma, silence, shame and embarrassment when it comes to mental health. I work in this field, and I struggled a lot to accept Mom’s diagnosis.
Mom showed a brave face to the world…trying to hide her pain. Inside though, it was a totally different world. Mom tried so hard to “appear and act like everything was fine”…but often she wasn’t fine. Her willpower and even her prayers couldn’t control her emotional ups and downs. Behind her warm smile and kind gestures, she felt inferior, like she didn’t measure up. She didn’t see others around her dealing with what she was feeling inside and so she judged herself harshly. She felt unsafe, insecure and uneasy a lot of the time.
There were times when I was frustrated with her. Angry. Overwhelmed. Powerless. Wishing that she would just get a handle on her emotions. And judging her as weak because she couldn’t. She took refuge in taking on this journey mostly alone.
Despite my mother’s bipolar diagnosis, and several hospitalizations, Mom was able to accomplish a lot in her life. Her creativity shone as she singlehandedly established a thriving bed and breakfast. She had two significant long-term marriages. Mom was an involved and supportive grandmother to nine grandchildren and a doting great grandma to her four “little ones.” Mom enjoyed her church communities. They offered her a community of faith, leadership opportunities and lasting friendships.
We said our goodbyes to Mom, Antonia, Josephine, Maria on March 7, 2021 and laid her to rest following her cremation.
Based on my experience, now (not later) is the time to make your wishes known to your loved ones. Consider asking them to designate the Community Counselling Centre of London as your charity of choice as part of your final wishes. Another option is to put the Community Counselling Centre of London in your will as a beneficiary of an allocated sum of money.
If you wish to donate now, rather than later, we welcome your generosity. Many donors are choosing to contribute with either a lump sum and/or monthly donations.
Mom had a practice of lighting a candle and saying a prayer when she knew people were in need. Perhaps you can join us with some inspiration from the back on mom’s prayer card, “Light a candle, say a prayer. Send out love, everywhere.”