Loneliness, Life’s Last Companion

Written by Harold McNeill on November 27th, 2011. Posted in Police Notebook


alone-elderly

The woman’s eyes were filled with tears as she watched her husband’s body being wheeled away on the stretcher. With her life-long companion dead, the woman knew everything had changed and it was not until I spent a little time talking with her and comforting her, that I realized just how much her life would change.

In those early the years, when the Fire Department provided the only ambulance service in Oak Bay, the police always attended to assist as needed. On this day I was dispatched to the residence where an elderly man had been found in the back yard by his wife after he had collapsed while gardening. As it seemed certain the man was dead, I stayed at the residence to assist the woman, his wife, in contacting a family member or friend to come over and assist in her time of need.

The couple had been living in this upscale south Oak Bay home for several years, but when I inquired if a family member, friend or neighbour who could come over and assist, the woman said there was no one. She was correct, there was not one friend, neighbour or relative in the Victoria area the woman could call upon to help. On the wall I noted a family portrait with two young men and inquired if they were her son’s.  She stated there were and I learned both were professionals working back east, but had not visited home for several years. 

I was finally able to make contact one of her son, an MD as I recall, but he immediately stated that neither he nor his brother had time in their busy work schedule to fly to Victoria at the present moment. The son would, however, “make arrangements” for someone to come and help his mother. That no doubt meant a hired housekeeper or caregiver of some sort. I knew nothing of the family history, but the response shocked me.

This woman, a seemingly caring and kindly sort, was now living in a world where not a single child, relative or friend cared whether she lived or died. Thinking back to the last story, perhaps the “Cat Lady” of Beach Drive had ended her time in a better position! For her, there were a dozen cats that doted upon her and likely gave her comfort to the very end. At the end of shift on this day, sad cases such as these always had a lasting impact.

Harold

Note:  Unfortunately these stories and that of the Cat Lady, are repeated over and over every day in Canada. I read an article a couple of weeks back about the number of women in Canada today who end up alone. The number is staggering. This is partly due to the fact that women often outlive men by several years.

Here is a link to a recent story (our of NY)  The Lonely Life of George Bell

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Comments

  • Herb Craig

    December 14, 2021 |

    As always awesome job Harold. It seems whatever you do in life the end result is always the same professional, accurate, inclusive and entertaining. You have always been a class act and a great fellow policeman to work with. We had some awesome times together my friend. I will always hold you close as a true friend. Keep up the good work. Hope to see you this summer.
    Warm regards
    Herb Craig

  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Hi Dorthy, So glad you found those stories and, yes, they hold many fond memories. Thanks to social media and the blog, I’ve been able to get in touch with many friends from back in the day. Cheers, Harold

  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Well, well. Pleased to see your name pop up. I’m in regular contact via FB with many ‘kids’ from back in our HS days (Guy, Dawna, Shirley and others). Also, a lot of Cold Lake friends through FB. Cheers, Harold

  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Oh, that is many years back and glad you found the story. I don’t have any recall of others in my class other than the Murphy sisters on whose farm my Dad and Mom worked.

  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Pleased to hear from you Howie and trust all is going well. As with you, I have a couple of sad stories of times in my police career when I crossed paths with Ross Barrington Elworthy. Just haven’t had the time to write those stories.

  • Howie Siegel

    November 25, 2021 |

    My only fight at Pagliacci’s was a late Sunday night in 1980 (?) He ripped the towel machine off the bathroom wall which brought me running. He came after me, I grabbed a chair and cracked him on the head which split his skull and dropped him. I worried about the police finding him on the floor. I had just arrived from Lasqueti Island and wasn’t convinced the police were my friends. I dragged him out to Broad and Fort and left him on the sidewalk, called the cops. They picked him up and he never saw freedom again (as far as I know). I found out it was Ross Elworthy.

  • Herbert Plain

    November 24, 2021 |

    Just read you article on Pibroch excellent. My Dad was Searle Grain company agent we move there in 1942/3 live in town by the hall for 5 years than moved one mile east to the farm on the corner where the Pibroch road meets Hwy 44. Brother Don still lives there. I went to school with you and Louise.

  • Herbert Plain

    November 24, 2021 |

    Just read your life account of Pibroch excellent.
    My family mowed to Pibroch in 1942 Dad was grain buyer for Searle Grain Company lived in town for 5 years than mowed one mile East to the farm on the corner of the road from Pibroch and Hwy 44. Bro Don still lives there.I went to school with both you and Louise.

  • DOROTHY MARSHALL

    November 15, 2021 |

    These stories brought back some sweet memories for me. a wonderful trip down memory lane . the photos were great. It has made me miss those days.

  • DOROTHY MARSHALL

    November 15, 2021 |

    Enjoyed your story Harold Dorothy Hartman