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"A Home Away from Home"

My mother was Stella Joy Manuel.


She died on August 23, 2019 at the Abbotsford Hospice Society’s Holmberg House at age of 79.


Mom was a teacher, a wife of 59 years, the mother of 4, the grandmother of 13, the great-grandmother of 2, and a beloved friend to many, many more.


My mother served our community alongside my father, the Reverend David James Manuel (86) from 1980 until their sort-of semi-retirement in 2000.

Together, they established a church over a period of 20 years within the ministry of South Abbotsford Mennonite Bretheren Church.



Mom loved me, her youngest child, in a way no one else could and no one else ever will again. I was well fed, listened to, loved, and educated.

Educated how?  

Here are few of the lessons learned:

Tell the truth; always!

Help those around you.

Love your family.

Love your neighbours in practical ways, including baking!

Imagine our shock when my mother’s health quickly deteriorated in July of 2019.

When we took her to the Emergency Room because she had fallen, we would never have guessed that a Stage 4 Cancer diagnosis was on its way and that her death was only weeks away; she would never return to her home with my loving dad again. We wouldn’t have the legendary “Back To School Banquets”, Christmas and Easter gatherings, or any of the drop-in visits again.

It’s difficult to explain the feeling of waiting in the beautiful room at Holmberg House for her to arrive by stretcher. It was an answer to prayer that we had been granted a room, so I was so very thankful. As I waited, it was quiet, and I was alone there, praying. “Could this really be happening?”

Interestingly, I had been in or near that room before. As the Co-Chair of the Capital Campaign to bring the project to lock-up stage, I had received a tour of the newly framed building. I remember saying to Sarah, my wife: “I wonder if one day one of our parents will need this facility?”


As Mom was wheeled in, she was joking with the nurses and smiled lovingly at all of us.

We greeted her one by one and she raised one hand to my check, smiled the way only a mother can at her child, and told me she loved me with a few tears in her eyes. Ten days later, my brother Phil and I were by her side shortly after midnight as she breathed her last breath on this earth.

For the brief 10 days of mom’s stay, the people of Holmberg House became our family.

From the person who welcomed us at the front desk, to the personal visits to the rooms, to the person who swept under the bed, to the volunteers who baked fresh cookies – they all exhibited these values:

Gentleness, Sensitivity, Respect, Love, Peace.

And why was this important? Because our mother was never going to return home.

It’s the weirdest feeling. And this place became our home.


These people, for that brief but critically important ten days, became our family. We were able to all come to Hospice to eat and to gather for meetings at this amazing facility.

Mom was never alone.

I pray that God will bless you, your families, and your businesses for the way you have shown love to the families of our community in our most difficult and vulnerable time; for the way you have loved the Manuel's by giving to this amazing cause.


Thank you.

Vijay Manuel,

Head of Schools, M.E.I.


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