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Saying Goodbye Through Fading Memories After 62 Years Of Love

Cees would visit Nel in the nursing home twice a day, every day.

It was a true testament to their love that even through dementia it persisted. Devoted and unwavering was Cornelias to Petronella Verdouw.

As they neared the end of their sixty-two year marriage, 'Cees' would visit 'Nel' in her nursing home twice a day, every day.

But on this particular day, January 15, 2017, it would be the last day they spent together.

Six decades earlier, Nel moved her life from Holland to Australia to follow the man she loved.

She was a strong, fiercely intelligent and overwhelmingly kind woman.

Cees had already moved 13 months earlier in search of better opportunities than post-war Holland could offer. His invitation for her to join was rebuffed by Nel's strict father.

But Nel knew what she wanted and she defied her father's wishes and left behind a life in Amsterdam she dearly loved. Her job as a nurse, her friends, mother and father and 12 brothers and sisters were all given up for Cees. It was the 1940s and she was just 23. Leaving meant she did so with the knowledge she may very well never see her family again.

But Nel was in love and Cees was waiting for her in Tasmania. He had prayed she would join him every day since they said goodbye. And just over a year later those prayers were answered.

That decision and sacrifice to be together formed the foundation of their marriage that lasted sixty-two years, eight children and 31 grandchildren.

Through her life, Nel Verdouw was admired by her friends and family for her strength in body and mind. She had a cheeky sense of humour, was fun and could talk on every topic -- she especially loved to debate politics.

She was an avid reader, a golf player, an expert knitter and beautiful cook.

Nel was also a matron of a nursing home that herself and Cees owned and managed. She would only ever fire someone once, and it was for being rude to a patient.

"Be open", was the mantra that weaved through Cees and Nel's marriage and passed on through to their children's. Be open about how you feel and what you think. Be open to new opportunities, even if they take you to the other side of the world.

But all of this colour and character began to slowly disappear in front of Cees' eyes about five years ago.

The 'Mum' her children had always known with her wisdom and patient ear began to fade away.

The 'Oma' to her grandchildren with her raspy laugh and infectious smile started to vanish as they watched on.

But the 'Nel' drawn by love from Holland to Australia still clung on inside Cees' heart.

And so on that late summers day on January 15, 2017, he returned to Nel's beside for the third time after the nurses told him Nel had taken a turn.

As Cees sat beside her bed, tears in his eyes, he held her hand in his and kissed her gently on the forehead.

It had been sometime since Nel had recognised Cees. Yet in that moment she opened her eyes, looked at him and said, "I love you".

Cees replied, "I love you, Nel. I'll see you in heaven".

And then Nel closed her eyes, and passed away.

If you are caring for someone with dementia you can seek resources and help here.

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