Having lived in Penticton for years, Georgina Doumont was still never really sure if this was home.
All that changed in March when her son Jason was taken off life support after suffering a severe head injury.
At the time of his passing, he was 39, and following her devastating loss, Doumont was overwhelmed by the many people who came to be by her side.
Saturday she and some of those who gave of themselves gathered at the memorial bench set up in Jason’s honour in Rotary Park.
“Since I’ve lived in Penticton it’s always been kind of hard to find your way. You have lots of friends and stuff but you never really feel like you kind of fit in,” said Doumont. “But this community really made me feel special, the overwhelming response from people when my son was passing away and that’s when I knew Penticton really was my home.
“I’ve been there (bench) many times and it really does feel like I can put my arm around him.”
There was also considerable support in social media, especially Facebook.
“Even the nurses at the hospital said ‘I wish you had somebody here’ but I said, I’m here for my son and if I need support and I showed her my Facebook and she just said ‘Oh my God,’” said Doumont. That’s what the gathering at the bench and potluck on Saturday was for, to do something special for them and give everyone a hug.”
It was her friend Jennifer Taylor who came up with the idea of the memorial bench.
“Jennifer called me and asked if I would ‘consider allowing us to raise money to put a bench on the waterfront so you could go and sit there and spend time with him?’” recalled Doumont. “I said absolutely and I told her the main reason is that I hope people like you will go and sit there with your son and realize how precious life is and how important it is to say how much you love each other.”
With a 16-year-old boy of her own, Taylor could not believe the pain and heartache her friend was going through.
“It chokes me up just thinking about,” she said. “Georgina is a good friend and it was that feeling of what could we do? And flowers just don’t cut it.
“As a mother I know that nothing can come close to the loss of a child and I thought we’ll never be able to change that loss but at least we can give her some sort of comfort and something to go to and something to hold on to.”
Taylor enlisted the help of mutual friend Wendy Binggeli to help raised the necessary funds and donations soon came pouring in.
Not only did they raise enough for the bench but an additional $700 which was donated to the South Okanagan Similkameen Brain Injury Society which Doumont asked to be used to help other families in similar situations.
“It just spiralled, we had donations coming in from everywhere,” said Taylor. “We live in an amazing community just the goodness of people here.
“I think this (memorial) gave Georgina hope in her darkest hours and will give a certain timelessness to his life and a place to stay connected to her son.”
Last month Georgina wrote a note to Jason on the electronic message board on his obituary, it read:
“Six months today, I have been reliving every moment of the last hour with you, will never forget, enjoyed spending time with you on the bench today, be happy my son, and grandma says to tell you she loves you also…”