My mum Isabell Fraser is 87 years old and partially blind with macular degeneration. She lives in a self-contained cottage in a Cambridge rest home. My dad died 16 months ago, only a few months shy of their 65th wedding anniversary.
Dad had made all the decisions, so suddenly Mum found herself not only a widow, but had to face day-to-day life without her lifetime companion. She faced shock, loneliness and for the first time dealt with things like finances and household bills. She can’t see her bank statements very well, but she knows exactly what’s on them.
Mum now has become a self-appointed unofficial social coordinator and neighbourhood carer of the rest home. She greets new residents and tells them about social engagements during the week, offering to personally take them and introduce them to other residents. She guides lost residents home safely, feeds cats while their owners are away, helps a neighbour from her car to her house when the wind is too strong, even helps her similarly blind neighbour understand how to work the special print enlargement device to read magazines and books. Last Christmas Mum organised and paid for a catered Christmas lunch for her extended family — 23 people. It was a lovely occasion. We called it “the Matriarch’s Lunch” in her honour.
It’s not been easy for Mum, it still isn’t, but it’s been so good to see in her that strength, humour, and compassion.