“I don’t think I would have managed without Anglicare. I would have gone quite mad.”
Reina came to Australia, just for a three month holiday, in 1957
She’s still here over 60 years later. “I must have liked the place!” she laughs. It turns out a charming Irishman had something to do with it as well.
“I met Brendan on a camping trip with friends not long after we came to Australia. He fell out of his canoe and being Irish, he couldn’t swim. It was quite a comic pantomime. We thought it was funny…though he didn’t!”
Brendan and Reina married and so began a wonderful journey that lasted for nearly 60 years
“We didn’t have any money, we had a simple life, but we enjoyed each other’s company and we had fun”. After their early happy years on the central coast, the couple moved to Canberra. By now there were four – daughters Fiona and Meagan had arrived.
The family were very happy, and made friends everywhere they went, many of whom Reina is still in touch with today. “It was Brendan. He was so charming. He didn’t have to do anything – he just made people feel good, and everywhere we went, people loved him. It was the Irish charm.”
30 years ago, they bought a block of land on a whim, not far from Batemans Bay. They built a home, a walk from the local beach, with a beautiful deck reaching out high into the trees and the birds. Brendan and Reina retired there not long after and began new adventures. With a passionate commitment to environmental issues, they joined Landcare, and also found great joy with community choirs at Sing Australia. And as always, they had a wonderful time, and made many more new friends.
But the family began to notice that something wasn’t quite right with Brendan
“There were a lot of odd symptoms, but for a long time we couldn’t pick it. Eventually the GP just said ‘I think it’s Parkinsons’.” It was a terrible blow. Reina cared for Brendan alone at home for over a year, but as his condition deteriorated and his mobility decreased, she needed a hand.
“I did my best, but I really was struggling."
“I don’t think I would have managed without Anglicare. I think I would have gone quite mad.” Extensive support from Anglicare was introduced, with daily help to look after Brendan, as well as help with the garden, and respite for Reina. Together, they cared for Brendan for a number of years. It was a sad day when Brendan eventually passed away in 2016. It was comfort having so many of their friends, as well as the choir from Sing Australia to farewell him.
For Reina, the years had taken a toll. “When you care for somebody over an extended period, you can overlook your own health issues. I ended up unwell myself, and I was also developing some anxiety about looking after the house and garden. I didn’t know how I was going to cope. So now I have Anglicare coming in to help me each week. Having a bit of help makes a world of difference, and takes away the worry. And it means I'm still able to get away and enjoy some time singing with my friends at Sing Australia.
“I’ve met some wonderful people through Anglicare."
“It was really good that we had the same Care Workers coming on a regular basis. They felt they were part of the family. And with my daughters still in Canberra and no other family here, I was very dependent on their help. They have been wonderful. And Brendan, as a charming Irishman, was very loved”.
Thanks Reina for sharing your story with us. Some names and details have been changed to protect privacy.