In the space of just a few weeks, 84-year-old Mission retiree Matilda “Tillie” Grant went from feeling isolated and alone to being smothered in hugs from sisters she had not seen in nearly two decades.
Grant was given the chance to take a trip back to her childhood home of Welland, Ontario, for a reunion with her five sisters, thanks to the efforts of Wish of a Lifetime Canada and Chartwell Retirement Residences. She had not seen her sisters for over 17 years. The reunion was put in motion by a staff member at the Chartwell Carrington House Retirement Residence, where Grant currently resides.
“I was feeling down and I was telling her, ‘You know what? I’m from such a big family and I’ve got no family support. I feel so alone,’ ” Grant said in a phone interview.
Grant wanted nothing more than to see her sisters and to hug them, she said.
Staff at Chartwell Carrington House set about making this wish a reality. They applied to Wish of a Lifetime Canada, a charity that strives to fulfill the dreams of seniors.
Weeks later, Grant was on a flight to Welland, where she would be reunited with her sisters Shirley Veltry, Jean Hopkins, Molly Cote, Margaret Wallace and Anne Colds. The sisters spent two days together, swapping stories over games of bridge, crib and euchre.
“I just enjoyed every minute I could with them,” said Grant.
Most of Grant’s remaining sisters had remained in Welland. Her family had a long connection to the town. Grant’s father was even the bridge master for the famous Welland ship canal, which links Lake Ontario and Lake Erie through the Niagara Peninsula.
Grant says that her family was poor but close-knit when she was growing up. She eventually moved west with her husband, who has since passed away.
Jennifer White, the lifestyle and program manager at Chartwell Carrington House, has known Grant to be a very active senior, who is often seen crocheting hats for local charities serving the needy. But White said that she has noticed a huge change in Grant since her return.
“She was just so ecstatic,” said White.
“You could almost see a huge weight lifted off her shoulders.”
White hopes that Grant’s story will inspire other seniors, and will also raise awareness among other members of the community.
“I think it’s really important for the people to realize that just because we’re aging doesn’t mean you have to stop dreaming and living a life with a purpose,” she said.