Gratitude for the Gift of Friendship

Out of the ashes of difficulty springs a lovely connection

By Kristian Partington

In a time when gratitude is high on the minds of many Canadians, Ilse Snaith and Lyn Ortt give thanks for the bonds of friendship.  

Ilse sitting next to Lyn, holding her hand
Ilse and Lyn have grown close together in recent mopths at Riverside 
Glen, bonded by their shared experience.

In the Egerton neighbourhood at The Village of Riverside Glen, Ilse and Lyn are often seen together. Sometimes they may simply sit quietly together, sharing space in calm contemplation, or they’ll chat about the lives they lived apart from each other before they became friends and neighbours.

Though in their long lives they’ve only known each other a relatively short time, their bond is deep, for it’s a bond built upon the mutual understanding of each other’s grief and sorrow.

Their husbands, Peter and John, both faced cancer together as roommates at Grove's Memorial Hospital in Fergus, and they both passed away within a short span of time from each other. It was only when the ladies became roommates in the same hospital that their connection saw light, however, and they grew close in the face of their own health challenges along the path they now walked in the absence of the men they loved.

Lyn was the first to leave the hospital after her daughter discovered Riverside Glen. She arrived in mid-summer and Ilse took notice. Lyn had come to terms with the fact that she’d have to leave the farm she loved, knowing that she would always depend upon additional supports throughout her daily life. Ilse was in very much the same situation.

Without Lyn knowing, Ilse made arrangements to move to the village as well, finally arriving in the same neighbourhood as her friend, so visiting is made easy. They both smile gently and nod when the conversation turns to the importance of a supportive friend in times of personal challenge. Talk turns to the men they loved.

“I could show you a picture of my husband,” Lyn offers. “He was a real stunner.”   

Ilse and Peter as a young couple
This photo of Ilse and Peter sits atop the bureau in her room.

Ilse agrees, noting that her Peter was a looker as well. A lifetime of memories, glistening in bittersweet remembrance, rests in the eyes of these two women. “Memories are good when you have them,” Lyn says, and again Ilse simply nods in agreement.

As friends, Isle and Lyn will sometimes share the stories of the past but not as often as one might imagine. It’s not necessarily a conscious decision, but they tend to live in the moment these days. They’re together for meals every day and a visit is as easy as a quick trip down the hall.

I ask about the importance of a connection like theirs, especially in the face of the losses they’ve both experienced. They may have lost much, yes, but they’ve gained friendship, “and that’s the biggest thing,” Lyn says.

“It is so important, friendship, because we have something in common,” Ilse adds, “even though we come from different parts.”

It matters not from where one comes in the face of grief and sorrow, and in their smiles and clasped hands, the beauty of this friendship shines above dark challenges. It truly is a gift to be thankful for.