“Folding chairs? Seriously Kate?” My friend Jane laughed as she grabbed our seats before heading out onto the deck.
“They will suffice for today,” I said closing the sliding door behind me. “The good furniture will come out in May. I just wanted to get out here and breathe in some of this magical spring air.”
I grabbed one of the chairs from Jane and opened it up. We both sat down, closed our eyes and took a deep breath.
Sitting there, I could feel the world waking up from its cold winter slumber. It was rubbing sand out of its eyes and yawning. The alders at the edge of the property were shedding their iron-gray look and my flower bed was showcasing a purple blanket of crocuses. A hummingbird zoomed past us and I watched it zig and zag before disappearing into the nearby patch of trees. A lone chain saw rattled in the distance.
“Did I ever tell you about Helen?” I ask.
“No. Who was she?”
Helen was my mother’s friend. She was 85 when I met her. After the death of her common-law partner, she realized she needed to get her own affairs in order. Her lawyer advised her to find someone local to be her Power of Attorney. That’s where I came in. Helen called my mother and my mother recommended me. Reluctantly, I agreed to meet with her.
I remember the night I went to visit Helen for the first time. She lived in a weathered two-story brick house with a gable veranda in the front. Entering her home was like stepping back in time. A massive mahogany desk dominated the dark and musty living room; old National Geographic magazines and newspapers were piled neatly on the shelves of an otherwise crowded bookcase.
Helen herself was a tiny lady with silver white hair. I liked her. She spoke six different languages and was well read and travelled. Her photo albums were memoirs, filled with hand-written stories and photos from her trips. She was close to her niece and didn’t mind incurring exorbitant international phone bills to stay in touch. She had a helper come in three times a week to assist her with household chores. She wanted someone she could trust to handle her financial affairs when she could no longer get to the bank on her own.
That night I joined Helen’s support team as her Power of Attorney, a role I fulfilled until she passed away at the age of 101.
I’d never met anyone whose behaviour mirrored the energy shifts of the different seasons quite like her. Helen would wane every winter, becoming rather frail and weak. Her caregiver (she eventually hired a full-time attendant) and I would give each other knowing looks, convinced that this would be “the” year. Yet come March and April, she would surprise us with an astounding rebirth; her stride would carry a renewed bounce and she was excited to be alive.
Helen loved listening to the birds chatter outside her sunroom. She confided in me that robins were her favorite because if you listened to their song carefully, you could hear the words, “cheer up, cheer up, cheerily, cheer up!” They were Nature’s reminder to her to be happy, to find the joy within that sustained her. They were the cue that sparked new life into her each spring.