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Gardening brings long-lost sisters back together for surprise reunion

BySam Schofield

Jul 20, 2019 #health, #life

A SURPRISE family reunion took place on a Teesside allotment when two octogenarian sisters met for the first time in years.

Edna Cook, 83, and her sister Joan Bell, 86, had not spoken since the passing of their brother, Jackie Steel, five years ago.

When both attended a recent Green Links session, run by Thornaby LiveWell Dementia Hub, they had no idea it would turn into a family reunion.

Edna, who lives at The Beeches Care Home, on Green Lane, Stockton-on-Tees, was having tea and cake on Thornaby allotments with fellow residents and staff when she heard a voice shouting “auntie Edna”.

It turned out to be her niece, Denise Frank, who she had also not seen in years. Denise had brought her mum Joan and niece Georgia Wilki to the Green Links session not knowing Edna was going to be there.

Denise said: “Edna had not seen mum or me in five years after the passing of uncle Jackie.

“I had to ring my other auntie, Beryl, to let her know that Edna had come to the session and her and mum had been reunited.

“Edna hadn’t seen my niece, Georgia, since she was a lot younger as well. It was such a surprise but so good to see her again. It’s been too long.”

When the family sat down to catch up, Denise shared her memories. She said: “I have a memory that always stuck in my head; it was when Edna used to come and babysit, she would always have a packet of fruit polos ready for me.”

Georgia added: “I had heard stories of how Edna would sing “Georgia on my mind” to me when I was born, so we played the song for her.”

Despite Edna’s dementia, she could remember the words and started singing along.

Jessica Roth, activities coordinator at The Beeches Care Home, was also at the Green Links session, which provide outdoor activities for people living with dementia.

She said: “There wasn’t a dry eye in the garden when Edna’s family played “Georgia on my mind” and she started singing the lyrics.

“We have discussed about having an afternoon tea in a couple of weeks, where Denise is going to bring Edna’s other two nieces, Joan and Beryl, as well as Georgia, and they’re all going to enjoy a cup of tea together and piece of cake.

“It was so lovely to see the sisters and the rest of the family reunited. Edna had a wonderful day and we look forward to seeing them all again soon.”