87-year-old Mary Helen and her sister, Betty, have always enjoyed a close relationship even though they live over 1,500 miles apart. They speak on the phone with some frequency, but, due to finances and – more recently – health issues, they had not seen each other for some 30 years.
Mary Helen, a stroke survivor, had never met Betty’s children. Now in an assisted living community in Port Charlotte, Florida, Mary Helen had just one wish: to see her sister Betty again and meet her children.
Mary Helen’s assisted living community is part of Brookdale Senior Living, one of the largest network of senior living facilities in the country. Brookdale is also a founding sponsor of Wish of a Lifetime, an organization (started by Olympic skier and former NFL football player Jeremy Bloom in 2008) that “fosters respect and appreciation for deserving seniors by fulfilling their life-enriching wishes.”
An application was filled out on behalf of Mary Helen and submitted to Wish of a Lifetime via Brookdale. Her story was compelling and Wish of a Lifetime made arrangements to realize Mary Helen’s dream — however, it became clear that, no matter the resources, Betty was not in good enough health to make the trip from her home in Omaha, Nebraska, to Florida.
Wish of a Lifetime flew two of Mary Helen’s nieces from Omaha to Port Charlotte. It was a tearful meeting and Mary Helen was ecstatic to get to know her sister’s children over the course of a weekend. However, Mary Helen still felt the aching absence of her sister.
On the morning of November 9th, Mary Helen and her nieces sat down in front of a computer. They had one last surprise for their aunt. Not having much experience with technology, Mary Helen simply thought she was going to watch a recorded video from distant family members.
The nieces (in cahoots with Betty’s grandchildren in Omaha) initiated a Skype Video Call and the two sisters suddenly found themselves staring into each other’s eyes for the first time since Jimmy Carter was President.
“I could not believe that I could see my sweet sister’s face and hear her voice so clearly,” Mary Helen cried. “I was in shock!”
After the surprise reunion, Mary Helen and Betty now have plans to stay in regular contact over Skype. “This experience was very emotional for the both of us,” she smiled. “Everything went beautifully, and… I guarantee it won’t be thirty years before I see my sister again.”