For years Fred Meyers dreaded Fridays. He hated how every Friday he was overcome with grief, remembering how he lost his wife suddenly that snowy Friday late in November nearly a decade ago.
“It was just so sudden and so tragic, it nearly broke me,” said Fred.
Fred and Laura had been married for 42 years when Laura suffered a massive heart attack and died at 67. The Meyers lived in a suburb of Ottawa where they raised their four kids, three of their own and one adopted. All were grown and gone, two as far away as Alberta. Fred had just retired from his accounting practice and Laura was still nursing but only taking the occasional relief shift. The pair were planning a trip to Europe and then planned to sell their home and move west – closer to their kids and grandkids.
“I was utterly and completely lost without her … and I still am sometimes,” said Fred. “But my life has improved greatly since I moved to Alberta and into a seniors’ residence, that’s really what got me back on my feet.”
It took Fred five years to pick up the pieces, scale down a lifetime of belongings, pack up and sell, and move across the country. His kids took turns helping him and supporting him; they wanted their dad close and comfortable, especially knowing he was suffering daily with loneliness and grief.
“I remember that weekend of the move, my heart wasn’t in it at all. I just had to keep telling myself, it’s what Laura would want, she’d want me to be near the kids and happy,” said Fred.
Fred’s daughter helped him find a senior’s retirement community central to all of his Alberta kids. At 74, he wanted to maintain his independence and continue cooking for himself, so he opted for a retirement residence and he has been there ever since.
“This new group of people became like a whole other family for me,” said Fred. “I found other widows and widowers and we were kind of drawn to each other. I guess loss can do that … make you bond with people,” said Fred. Within a year Fred noticed he had turned a corner; he had a renewed reason to get up each day.
He joined the choir, has taken up the ukulele, and helped start a chess club in his residence. He spends several hours each week with his kids and grandkids, and he feels pleased to be valued and included in their busy lives.
“If Laura could see me now, I think she’d be pleased,” he said softly. “She always said what we put into the kids we’ll get back out, so I guess I’m reaping what we sewed there. She also used to get after me about getting a hobby, being more active, having more fun with friends … and now I’d like to tell her she was right about that too.”
Fred says moving to a senior’s community completely saved his life. “I still live alone, and that suits me, but I’m not really alone because right across the hall there are people and they are like family to me. I reckon we have all been thrown together at this time in our lives for a reason – you see what I’m getting at? Happiness is what you make of it.”
*To protect their privacy, names have been changed & stock photos have been used.