So. Now it’s here. The day when I am writing my last chapter about Alida.
100 years, 5 months and 15 days. That’s how long Alida’s life came to be. That’s how long she walked on this earth. Caring for us. December 27, 8.20 PM she passed away. Quietly and peacefully. That’s how long she stayed with us.
Alida was my neighbor. The woman next door. She has been there all my life. All my children’s lives. All my mother’s life. And half my grandmother’s life. Alida carries all generations within her.
When I was a very young girl I used to take my little tricycle the 80 meters to the hot baker’s cottage where Alida and her husband Värner were making their delicious thin crust flat bred. It was my assignment to pick up the fresh warm morning bread for our front yard summer breakfasts. At that time, this place at the end of the road, was my family’s summer house. The bike ride was also a safe adventure for a little girl.
At 25 I moved here with my boyfriend who became my husband. At 30 Trouble 1 arrived, and at 32 Trouble 2 joined us. Alida and Värner were still baking their bread and little boys were now riding the tricycles.
The foundation for Alida’s and mine friendship was founded when I was a tiny girl and she a woman in her forties. When I started my home here she was about the same age as I am now. Taking care of our cats and plants when my husband and I were gone, which we were a lot. Later being a fix point for Trouble & Trouble growing up.
I think though, the most important time together for the two of us has been the last eighteen years. My husband and I separated and divorced. Värner, who was older than Alida turned fragile and had to move in to a nursing home. It was hard times for both of us and we found strength and companionship in each other. The day Värner passed away in 2008 at the age of 98, she called me. Now he is dead, she said.
I used to walk the 80 meters trough the grove in the dark fall and winter afternoons to Alida’s house. We sat at her kitchen table drinking tea, having biscuits and coockies. I liked those with chocolate, she preferred the strawberry ones. We talked. We sighed. We laughed. Trouble & Trouble grew up and moved away, and we had even more tea. She was actually a coffee drinker but with me, she had tea.
Aren’t you afraid of the darkness, she asked me - as it’s pretty dark where we are at. No, I said, there is a lot of things I am afraid of, but not the darkness. Really she said, well in that case I won’t be either.
When Värner had to move away from home she was beating herself up of course, as most everyone does when it finally is impossible to take care of the spouse and life companion any more. I asked her to not be so hard on herself. You have done absolutely everything in your power for Värner all these years, I said. Is that so, she responded. Well, in that case I will let that one go.
When my back entered the level of acute back out phases starting in 2004, she picked up the mail and news paper for me as I couldn’t get to the mailbox myself. Even in her nineties she was looking out for me.
At around 95 Alida still took her speedy walks in the forests and visiting her friends around the village most every day. Eventually she turned more fragile and her strolls became limited to our road. We used to meet between our houses, she supported by her walker and me on my Nordic Walking poles. We hugged and smiled and sighed.
When it finally was time for Alida to be assisted by home care, they checked on her ones a day and she didn’t like it a bit. It was pretty much at the same time as my life ended the way I knew it to be, and I needed assistance six times a day.
When Alida for some reason was away, I felt like my backbone was gone. When her house was empty I was unguarded. I dreaded the day she would be gone, and it happened a little more than three years ago. She moved away, into a nursing home. 97 years old. And I had to learn to live without her. And to let go of her.
In June Alida turned a hundred years old. She had reached the goal we weren’t quite aware she had set up for herself. And I am so incredibly grateful for the beautiful summer afternoon her granddaughter Josephine and I had together with her a couple of days later. I got to meet her one last time. Holding her hand. Caressing her face. Singing her songs. And remembering together.
On Friday we bid our farewell to Alida. The mother. The grandmother. The great grandmother. The mother in law. And the friend. The sun was shining on the snowy landscape for the first time in weeks.
At the goodbye to Värner I sang Bliv kvar hos mig - Abide with me, the beautiful and poetic evening hymn also so right at the end of a life. And I promised Alida I would sing the same song at the end of her life as well. I’ve dreaded it though. How would I do it? In that moment?
It was a beautiful ceremony. It was sweet. And I wanted to contribute with what I had been given, my voice. I sang for Alida. I sang for her family. I sang for me. For Trouble & Trouble, my mother and my grandmother. For my extended family. I sang for all of us and for the moment.
Back at my seat afterwords I could let go. Meanwhile the organ was reflecting, the pictures came to me. All the hours at her kitchen table in the winter darkness. Our brief meetings at the road. The deserted feeling returning to my empty home, knowing Alida was still in the house next door. Keeping me safe and sane.
Thank you Alida for everything you gave us. Thank you for staying with us much longer than we asked for. Thank yo for being such a presence in my life. I will always carry you with me. As I also carry your name.
Earlier chapters about Alida: