This week, a beautiful friend of mine was laid to rest. She was 96.
I first met Florence in 2001- about a year after her communication was robbed by a stroke. I had just begun to pursue Speech-Language Pathology as a career path, and a Speech Pathologist whom I had job-shadowed thought I could score some useful speechie experience helping Florence. Win-win. I began visiting Florence weekly to converse with her, complete activities to promote communication, and generally stimulate the ol language centre of the brain. Before long, Florence and I developed a bond. She had no grandchildren, and I had no grandparents in town, so we just... fit. When I returned to Lethbridge after completing my speech degree, we continued our regular visits, and my family would Christmas carol at her place every year.
Even though she was unable to put words together appropriately ("Today five, the kids five, and one and five... good knight!"), she seemed to understand others (although I'm sure she frequently thought I was bonkers as I would start jabbering about one of the completely random topics that I had logged away in my brain when I wasn't sure what she was attempting to communicate). Still, there was much laughter.
Her smile was contagious, and her mood was bright despite her situation.
Our friendship came naturally, and even though we didn't communicate well verbally, we still communicated... on a deeper level... ya know? Hugs, kisses, smiles.... we cared. I credit my parents for instilling in me a love and respect for the elderly. I could write post upon post about my fond memories of the local elderly population: Auntie Anne and the singing birthday cards, Mary and her to-die-for poppy seed rolls, Mr. Ray and his peppermints...to name a few. My camaraderie with Florence was an extension of the many friendships I benefited from throughout my childhood and adolescence. I hope my kids grow up with similar memories... and I'm thankful they got to spend some time with Florence before she passed.
I was lucky enough to give Florence one last kiss on the day she slipped into heaven. She was suffering in her final days, and while it was devastating to say good bye to her on this earth, I was so grateful that her pain was taken away.
Believe it or not, I haven't always carried a camera with me 24/7 and taken pictures obsessively, so our visits remain mostly undocumented. I was, however, able to scrape up a few images from over the years...
|Florence- months before she passed- rocking the ipod filled with her favourite tunes from the 30s, 40s, and 50s!|
I will always love and cherish my unique relationship with this woman. See you on the other side, Florence!