Whenever Berit Buck would don her traditional Norwegian dress, like those customarily worn by girls and women during Norwegian celebrations marking the countries confirmation as an independent kingdom, her husband’s head would turn. Constitution Day is celebrated in the great Nordic nation of Berit’s birth on May 17 and this year, as the day approached, Berit considered whether or not she might surprise her husband.
Gordon lives in Long-Term Care at The Village of Erin Meadows and his health has been in decline for some time, but Berit still has the traditional embroidered dress her mother made for her many years ago and she thought Gordon may respond favourably if she wore it.
“It’s ornate and quite over-the-top,” Berit says with a laugh, “with a lot of embroidery and an apron and vest, but Gordon always thought I looked beautiful in that costume.”
That morning, however, she began to second-guess herself, thinking that perhaps the wool costume was a little too much to wear on a hot spring day into the Village. Besides, it always attracted a lot of attention and in recent weeks, Gordon would barely respond when she entered his room. Such is the nature of the progression of his illness and she wasn’t sure the man she’s loved since they met decades ago in England on her first trip beyond the Norwegian borders would even notice.
Less than an hour before she left for the Village, however, she changed her mind and chose to put the outfit on.
“When I walked into the room, he looked at me and he showed surprise that I haven’t seen before,” Berit says with delight. “Then he started smiling and, as I approached, he reached out for me and wanted to touch the costume and I was totally in awe.”
She says almost the entire time she visited that day, Gordon was alert, smiling and trying to reach out for her, though each time she tried to snap a photo, her phone would distract things and he would become serious. She never did capture that smile, but the image of him in her mind that day will stay with her forever.
Gordon and Berit’s story has been written over the course of decades, and this latest section in a later chapter is a beautiful reminder that we can never really know what a person sees or feels from within a mind and body overcome with the illnesses of time. All anyone can do is be present in the moment, never losing sight of the connections threaded together through the course of human togetherness.
“It was absolutely delightful and I was so glad that I put on that costume,” Berit says. “That was an absolutely fantastic visit that I had with him and I feel so good about that couple of hours I spend with him.”