Meta had lived with her parents in Western NJ until she was 29 years old. When her mother passed away in the mid 1940’s, it was not uncommon for families to be advised by doctors and professional staff that “the best place for your daughter or sister to live, would be an institution”, and it was with trust in this recommendation that Meta’s remaining family agreed to have her move to an institution that was about 1 1/2 hours away in the center of the State.
She lived there for almost 50 years, when the State made the decision to close this facility. By this time in her life, Meta had no interest in moving. Patti visited Meta while she was still living in the institution. Neighbours had already begun working for a number of people with some success that had been built around the idea of pursuing each person’s “dreams”. The process had been exciting and energizing. It was with enthusiasm that Patti approached Meta, and began engaging in conversation with her about how Meta would be able to move out, and do all of the things that Patti imagined she would want to do. Meta, who was slouched over, barely tolerating listening to her, raised her head, looked at her eye to eye, and said “F____ OFF”.
Patti knew that Meta was not happy about moving, but she also knew that the institution was closing, so she committed to coming back, and trying new ways to get to know Meta, and slowly discover what Meta loved and enjoyed. She eventually learned from the staff at the institution that Meta seemed to like some cats that lived out back of her building. So Patti brought a cat for Meta, who Meta named Tommy. She clearly loved spending time with this cat. Having Tommy changed how much Meta would open up to Patti and an Advisor who also began to visit her. She shared how she had two brothers who she remembered and missed. When asked where she would like to live, Meta said she wanted to live near her brothers.
This desire set Patti and the Advisor off in search of Meta’s brothers, and then a place to live near them. It turned out that only one of her brothers was still living, and he was definitely open to seeing his sister again. Time and distance had separated them, but he looked forward to spending time with Meta.
Initially Meta had indicated that she wanted to spend time at a local Seniors Day Program, but eventually she indicated that she wanted to “retire”, a totally sensible idea at 80 years of age. This lead to sorting out how Meta could have time to choose what she would like to do, and how would she not become isolated.
Meta would visit her brother while her Advisor helped her find a house that she could rent. It was a 2 bedroom house, and they found a woman who was a student who could live with Meta. Most days Meta would spend some time with her brother, either visiting him at his house or having him over to visit.
Meta had some staff who would spend time during the day with her, and support her in managing life at home. They would bake cookies together, and then take the cookies to neighbors or invite people over for tea. She got to know the young mothers who had small children in the neighborhood. They would bring their children over to Meta’s, where they would have cookies and spend time with Meta and her pets, with her staff there to help watch the children. Meta grew to love coloring her hair and doing nail art with the young neighbors and staff.
Meta now had Tommy the cat living with her, but she also had a bird, and a dog. It was clear that Meta loved animals, and they seemed to love her. Meta’s Advisor and staff explored how Meta could spend some of her time engaged with animals. Eventually they discovered that there was a very active Dog Show circuit in the area near where Meta lived. Meta would attend the Dog Shows, and get to know all of the “regulars” on the circuit, and their owners.
By the time Meta died in her mid 80's, she had become known as a sister, a housemate, a neighbor, a “grandmother”, a pet enthusiast, animal lover, and a much loved regular on the Dog Show circuit. The funeral parlor was full of people who had come to know and love Meta.
Meta inspires us still.