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One of the highlights of 2009 was the May reunion of my Montreal General Hospital nursing class. I did a short write-up of the weekend for the alumnae newsletter which was published in the Fall. I’m republishing it here. It will be of special interest to my nursing friends but perhaps there will be some general interest in it as well.

When I began to write this, it took me by surprise when I acknowledged to myself that a tour of the hospital and the nurses’ residence, Livingston Hall, stood out as such a highlight of the reunion weekend. Hanging out in the hotel, walking the downtown neighbourhoods, eating good food and being together for the wonderful evening of the alumni dinner couldn’t have been more fun but it was in walking the halls of where we used to live and work that the past really returned to life.

In 1961, when we arrived at the MGH, the hospital had only been open for six years. It’s been through a lot since then; it shows some wear and tear but that’s to be expected. During the tour, we found it amazing 1) how much and how many details we remembered and 2) how everything used to be so much bigger.

For those of us who haven’t worked in a hospital setting for some time, things looked unfamiliar and intimidating but we found it easy to super-impose yesterday’s memories over today’s realities. We stood in the sixth floor lobby – not as imposing as it used to be, by the way – and looked at those six elevators that used to take us up to work every morning. Funny thing, we all had the same memory and that was how, as student nurses, we had to stand back and let the staff doctors go first even though they wouldn’t catch hell from the head nurse if they were late – as we certainly would.

From that memory, we went on to the one about being in the cafeteria lineup where we had to let practically everybody get into line ahead of us – and we had only a strictly-enforced 30 minutes for lunch. The cafeteria is a much different place today and if we complained about the food then … well, there’s no guarantee the commercial fast food and pre-cooked meals of today would be met with any more satisfaction.

The affection that we feel for the Montreal General is connected to much more than happy thoughts of youth. The time we spent at the MGH School of Nursing was formative in so many positive ways. I had written about an earlier reunion and speculated on the intimacy that was still present in our relationships with one another:

We wondered why we still felt so close, although it had been many years since some of us had seen each other. We knew there was something more than just the simple fact of having lived in residence together even though our residence was not only our home but was also our school and was connected to our workplace on several different physical levels.

In the end, I think our bond of sisterhood grows out of years of proximity to each other but also to our shared participation in the great stories of life and death and in knowing the intrinsic value of the important work we were so well-trained to do at the Montreal General Hospital.

There were 57 members of the Class of ’64 at our 45th reunion. There were classmates whom I hadn’t seen in the whole 45 years since graduation. It made me think regretfully of the light-hearted way the words, “Have a great life …” are used by the young and how different the significance of those words is at the different stages of our lives.

The organization of activities and fun was flawless and in case we didn’t all get a chance to say so, many thanks to everyone who worked on the reunion, at all levels, to make such a satisfying weekend come together.

4 Responses

  1. #1
    Linda Dyer 

    So well said, Sharon, we did have a special bond with each other. We were so lucky to have that experience as young people today do not have the oppportunity to become “sisters” in training. Our training formed an important part of our lives never to be forgotten .

  2. #2
    patricia campkin 

    Great work, Sharon. It was a pleasure to read your account in the fall newsletter which, along with our class photo, has become a part of the “64 yearbook. Will catch up upon my return from Mexico!!

  3. #3
    Gwyneth Cardwell Jalbert 

    I, too, feel the bonds of sisterhood, with the memories of our youth and also the easy connection to the current day. We have many shared memories, but also many parallel experiences. The reunion was a great time to renew old friendships and to connect again to classmates as the mature, experienced women we have become. Thank you Sharon for expressing our feelings so well.

  4. #4
    Lyn Stuart Main 

    I too agree 100%. No matter how long it’s been since we’ve seen each other, one can so easily reconnect. I was back East in 2008 for a “reunion” with 7
    friends — we were “celebrating” receiving our OAS in 2008. Three of us have been friends since we were three years old — time means nothing. I enjoy reading your
    work, Sharon.

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