Jen Hall.

“After 54 years of marriage, we had exactly 9 weeks from my husband’s diagnosis until his last day. But it was the most amazing 9 weeks of my life.”

In the midst of the 2020 Covid lockdown in Victoria, the diagnosis arrived. With a broad nursing background, Jen Hall knew life had changed forever, and began those weeks knowing they would be the last ones she would spend with Brian.

Jen’s gentle strength had carried her through a similar journey just four months earlier when she lost her childhood friend. Jen had been there for her as well. “I visited her each day. I was with her when she needed to go to hospital for the last time. She didn’t come home”.

Her focus now was on making these nine weeks precious ones. The family came together swiftly and completely. Someone was with Brian at all times, to shave him, to help him eat or read … which continued when he transferred into palliative care. Everything else, such as her golf and Probus club, went on hold.

On the last Saturday of Brian’s life she took him out: to his sister; to their children and grandchildren; past special places to him. He passed away 6 days later and Jen came home to a different life. “Now I had to get myself (she pauses looking for the right words) … well, HERE”.

Three days later … the long grass was a problem. Brian had been in charge of “outside” and Jen had never mown. So she took herself off and bought a mower. “It’s electric. You just push a button!” It was a huge first for Jen and she invited the family over to celebrate the purchase. She called it “Brisey”, a nickname she had for Brian “because only Brian cuts my grass” she says with laughter.

“It changed my life. You feel shocking, but you cut the grass, then you see weeds, and there is the pruning, which I had never done, so you do that. You’re doing exercise and keeping busy, and at the end, you feel great, and it looks beautiful”. Jen also taught herself to use the leaf blower and manage her vegetable garden.

The nature strip, however, was a new experience. Not because of the task, but because her neighbours all stop by! “Now I know why Brian loved it”. Jen found herself invited to coffee and then weekly dinners.

Her calendar is now full. She has returned to her past activities, added new friends and social events, and has her precious garden. “The backyard is my sanctuary and my saviour. It changes your mood and your outlook. I love it”. 

Jen’s mantra in life is “I am strong, I am resilient, and I will never give up!”

Her daughter Tanya has been sitting beside her as she shared her story, and the pride they have in each other is clear. It occurs to me that it is not just Jen’s calendar that is full, it is also her life.

#lifechanges #keepmoving #stayactive #humansingeelong

Photo: Phil Hines Photography

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