Difficult Goodbyes


For the past year or so, we have been checking in on our 95 year old neighbour Mrs. Solberg. We would make sure she would get home cooked meals a couple of times a week and bring her special meals on holidays. This past December her only son passed away and she and I sat in grief together as she shared fond memories.  No matter if your son is 4 1/2 years old or 60 something years old when they die, the natural order of life has been broken and the grief is so incredibly deep. 

When Covid-19 hit, I would call her for her list of groceries so I could pick them up for her. She would leave the cash for them in an envelope in her mailbox, always leaving a little note for Olivia, when I went to leave them on her front porch. We’d still bring her meals, but deliver them to her porch and wear a mask when we delivered it.  I would make sure to call her every couple of days to check on her and ask her questions about her life, her long career as a teacher, and so on. It was such a pleasure to visit with her. She was so incredibly sharp and when visiting I would have never guessed she was 95 years old. 

One day this May we noticed that EMS was at her house and I realized I only had her house number and no one else to call to check on her.  Not to worry though, she called me from the hospital the next morning because she knew I would be worried so she wanted to let me know she had broken her leg and would be in the hospital a minimum of 6 weeks. I offered to care for her flowers and took pictures of them to send to the hospital for her to enjoy. I am sure all of the nurses on 3 North had to look through her album with her. She called at least once a week to check on how they were doing and ask Olivia to pick the raspberries when they were ripe. She loved her little house and flowers so very much. 
A couple of weeks ago one of her friends, who I had gotten to know as she picked up her mail every few days, came by to say that Mrs. Solberg had turned for the worst. Her leg was healed, but her body was failing. They said that Covid-19 restrictions on visitors were now lifted because she was receiving end of life care. If I wanted to say good-bye, I should go that same day or the next. I was warned to not expect her to be conscious. So, I went the next day expecting to quietly sit with her for a while.  When  I got there she had no visitors. She opened her eyes, and slowly said my name and asked how her flowers were. She told me about how she had brought some of the seeds from Saskatchewan in 1960 when she and her son had driven here to meet up with her husband. She told stories about her ‘magic jellybeans’ from her teaching years and even drank water each time I offered. This was not what I had been expecting. She held on for another week and this Monday morning a friend of hers came by to let us know that she had passed in the night.
She was 95 years old and lived a long and full life. She taught hundreds of students and left a mark on each of their lives just like she has left a mark on our lives. She lit up each time she saw Olivia and always wanted to know which book she was reading.
I wish I had known her longer. There was so much wisdom and humour she had to share and I only got to be a part of a year or so of it. Grief is so strange…each loss one experiences is so very different and ones reaction to it is very different from all the others. So, even though she is gone, I’ll keep watering her flowers until the frost gets them and I’ll continue to think of her fondly.

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