This is a story about my grandparents Else and Poul, whom I’ve been photographing for three years (2015-2018)
Poul and else Mathiassen met in 1969. Else was a nurse and Poul and engineer. When Poul was offered a job In Iran he told his new employer, that he had to get married first so Else could join him. After five years in Iran they returned to Denmark, moved into a house in Skanderborg and had two children. They were the loves of each other’s lives and were married for 57 years. Poul was diagnosed with dementia and Parkinson’s Disease in 2011 and had already by then been suffering from bad memory, difficulty with concentration and a lost sense of time and place.
Dementia is developing differently depending on the person. Poul became slower and more unbalanced physically and mentally over the past few years. Else used to lock all the doors in their house, to prevent Poul from walking out at night.
"Poul was a lieutenant when I was a nurse at the hospital in Randers. Then some friends of mine invited me to the barracks for dinner, and then there was Poul... Well, then we started seeing each other… That was it.”
"One day he was brushing his teeth, when he said to me: I can't control the toothbrush... And then it started. All the loses. So many loses. Whenever we met with friends, he would ask them their names.”
For a long time Else took care of her husband in their home. In July 2016 he moved into a local nursing home to relieve Else. She visited him every day.
At the nursing home they had a voucher system so the patients could get a bath once a week. At this point Poul was too sick, so the morning routine was done while he was lying in bed.
Else talking on the phone with a girlfriend about Poul’s situation. She often felt depressed and once she started seeing a psychologist, but didn’t think that helped.
Wedding, July 1, 1961.
“Poul was in Copenhagen and I was in Randers. So, we met in Aarhus Saturday noon and got married Saturday afternoon. The pastor escorted us to the alter. There wasn’t even any organ music. It was a small wedding.”
"Sometimes we had small moments where we could reach other.”
When the nurses told Else, that Poul could die soon, she stayed with him all the time at the nursing home, sleeping on a mattress next to his bed. Poul died April 9, 2018.
“You keep loving each other… No matter what, no matter sickness… He was my husband. We’ve been together all life, we were supposed to be together until we couldn’t anymore.”
”We’ve had a wonderful life without any sorrows. It has been great. We’ve travelled a lot and got to live together for so many years, and the last few years has been hard but also filled with love.”
”It was hard all those years, when he started getting sick and loosing his abilities. Especially when he was still aware that he was sick. But in the middle of everything he could suddenly say ‘I love you’ and that really got me.”
One week after Poul died Else celebrated her 84th birthday. She lives alone in their house and plans to stay there.