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Loon – Birgitta Walsh
Birgitta Walsh


We always referred to our New Hampshire place as “Loon” after the nearby mountain and the haunting bird cry. This 3Br Condo has been a haven for the past 20 years: spring and fall. Next to “Vallby”, Birgitta’s Swedish summer home, this was her favorite. She loved to come here in the spring and watch the trees come to life. The subtle light green buds slowly darken and grow into leaves of a bright green shade where they pause for a few months before resuming the journey to the yellows and brilliant reds of fall. Beautiful in all seasons. But spring and fall were her favorites. Two years ago we arrived in early in April. I awakened at 5 am to total silence even the sound of the river was muted. I quietly opened the shades to a wonderland. The trees were covered with snow. I woke Birgitta, she just had to see this extraordinary sight that had arrived just in time to say welcome to her. Somehow even nature knew how she loved it all. We quickly dressed and rushed out to have a snowball fight and see the mountains covered in a coating of white as the sun came out and lightened up the sky. We jumped into the car and rode up to Franconia Notch where the walls of mountain sides closed in and the brilliant white surrounding us was close enough to touch. We drove on to Polly’s Pancake house and had breakfast looking out over the valley. We were the first customers and had the best seats in the house. Driving home slowly on the back roads the snow began to disappear and sadly it gone by noon. Here in the gap spring was a little behind the rest of the woods. As the snow melted and dropped to the ground the brown sticks of wood showed themselves without a bud to be seen. It was as if God had created this extraordinary day knowing that this was the last spring Birgitta would ever see in her beloved Loon.

Its spring again and I am here alone. I’m here to sell the place with all of it’s beautiful memories, She would approve. Just before her illness was diagnosed we had discussed our life and decided to sell Loon and take the funds and divide it into 5 pieces and add that to out travel budget for the next 5 years. It was out new 5 year plan, stimulated by my age. We figured at 82 , 5 years might be all I would be able to enjoy extensive travel. I am thankful she never had to see it sold. It would have been heartbreaking. But, it was so like her to agree to sell. She always was willing to do want was best for me. Besides she had some things on her Bucket list that had risen in priority as we aged. She had grand plans. As she became ill and knew the plans would never happen she said that her only regret in this illness was that she would never get to do the things that she might have done if she had lived as many years as her mother, 92. She was thinking of all the things Mor had done in her years between 75 and 92. But, she knew she had lived a very full and extraordinary life. She had made every minute she had count.

We came to own Loon in a very different way. That always added to its charm. My very best childhood friend “Bunky” Murray and his wife Alberta had bought it with one of their daughters. As can happen some financial mishaps made it so the children could not keep up their share so we bought them out. We now jointly owned the condo. We were
so compatible and such great friends that it was all very easy. Sometimes we were there together but mostly we were alone during our time. Later the Murray’s had other things they wanted to do so we bought their share, Now the place was ours. We had previously bought a timeshare at Disney when they started their timeshare business so knew the market. We now had a timeshare with 52 weeks we could use at will. Use it we did. Birgitta became an expert in managing exchanges of weeks with RCI, Interval International, DAE and other timeshare companies. We have exchanged dozens of places in the US and Canada, Sweden Germany, Spain, Malta, Thailand, New Zealand, and one year Birgitta out together 12 consecutive weeks in Australia where we went up the East coast one week in each small town at a time and met some wonderful people and saw the real Australia closeup and personal. The first thing Birgitta did on arriving in a new town for the week was to call the Bridge Club and arrange to play Bridge. We met some interesting people that way. She was so outgoing and totally unafraid with a true love of others wanting to learn about them and their lives. Always willing to share but more importantly always willing to listen. A great gift.

The Loon condo is located in “Deer Park’, a condominium complex on the Kancammagus Highway (the Kank) directly on the Pemigewasset (locally the Pemi) River in North Woodstock NH. Going east you come to Lincoln the larger of the two towns in the immediate area. The area is a development actually within White Mountains National Park. It is filled with hiking trails and six of the areas nine highest mountains are in the town of Lincoln. Loon Mountain is a major ski area and has more snow making equipment than any ski area in NH, It is very busy in the winter and summer. The whole world beats it’s way to our door in leaf season when the beautiful Maples, birches and Oaks turn into a kaleidoscope of reds, yellows and deep browns. The tour busses fill the area in late September and early October bringing the world to our two little towns. Our favorite season was the spring, locally called mud season, when there were few visitors. It was the time local businesses took their vacation. Here in the peace and quiet every spring we watched our little world be reborn; bare branches to buds, buds to leaves a slow maturing of the trees until the bare brown
branches were transformed and shone with bright green leaves. Magical!

At the age of 75, Birgitta was in wonderful condition. She loved to swim and swam everywhere we went. Her daily routine here at Loon was to walk a mile to the pool, swim 50 laps and walk home, The pool was indoor and there is a small lake where she swam weather permitting. She very rarely deviated from this schedule. In Florida it was generally too hot to walk far. But there too she swam almost every day. We were fortunate to have both indoor and outdoor pools. In Florida the indoor pool is in a magnificent 45,000 square foot exercise and work out building. The best most modern equipment for our use. It was her excellent condition that allowed her to put up such a fight against this insidious decease, cancer. She accepted her death sentence but refused to give in to despair. She lived every day to the best of her ability usually with a smile and her unique little laugh: what a giant she was. She cast this gigantic shadow of her being and love that made us a family and showed us how to live and face our unknown future with strength and optimism. She left a legacy that will live as long as we do and hopefully in our grandchildren.

We often walked in the woods and explored for mushrooms which she found regularly. We visited the wondrous Flume, a walk through crevices formed during the ice age. We visited the Basin, a pool of rock formed in the Pemi River which starts in a lake just 5 miles up into Franconia Notch. We climbed the branches of the river where small waterfalls fed the stream. Here amongst some of the worlds oldest mountains worn and rounded by time we spent hours in peaceful exploration of the wonders of nature, A stranger seeing us walking holding hands like teenagers would have thought we were new lovers. No, just older ones who knew the treasure we had in each other. We rode the cable cars at Loon and Cannon to the top and stood in wonder of the views before us. We rode the Kank over the mountains to North Conway to shop in duty free, tax free New Hampshire which uniquely has no income or sales taxes a fact that brings visitors from all the surrounding states. She never bought much but loved to see the latest styles and fashions. We dined in favorite restaurants but more often we would find the market with the cheapest lobsters and feast on them at home for this was Birgitta’a favorite food. Every meal a ritual with bibs, crackers and picks; and melted butter and lobster juice for dipping, Often as a starter we had mussels or clams. Always with the balcony door open so we could hear the sound of the Pemi we ate like there was no tomorrow until we were both sated. This was the same river noise, just 25 feet away, which lulled us to sleep every night through the open windows of our bedroom. Windows that never closed while we were here for to the muffle the musical sound of the river was unthinkable.

It is here at this lovely spot in the Pemi in the shade of the trees within sight of our balcony I have placed some ashes. This river flows the length of New Hampshire and joins the Merrimack River in Franklin and flows into the Atlantic at Newburyport in Massachusetts. Another voyage for my love. Today I took her for a last drive through the beautiful mountains. We drove through the notch to the base of Cannon Mountain and looked up at the ski trails carved on its face. Then we went south to the Old Man viewing spot but alas he was no longer there to see. He too has passed to someplace in the memory of all who viewed and loved him, the symbol of New Hampshire independence. On south to the Basini where I sprinkled some ashes into the swirling waters. A stop at the flume that was filled with people there to see its wonders. We took the time to watch the short movie which gives the history of these beautiful white mountains. We walked in the little park where the trees and bushes are identified for the tourists. Here we often found Chanterelle the sweetest of mushrooms but there were none today. We drove the base of Loon Mountain and looked at all the beautiful very expensive homes that have been constructed there all in the dark browns and green of the surrounding forest. They blend in so well you have to stop and really look to see them. Finally back in Deer Park to the small lake where Birgitta ofter swam out to the head of a shark painted on a rock that protrudes from the lake and there we placed a small portion of ashes. I recently purchased a beautiful picture of this lake which shows the lake and surrounding condos with the buildings and sky mirrored in the lake. The picture by the son of a very dear friend who has been a jewel helping me with this condo after Birgitta got sick. She would have loved the picture which I will treasure as a lasting memory of out wonderful Loon.

I cannot leave Loon without a comment on our local medical team. Dr. Rodney Felgate and his superb medical assistants have provided us with 20+ years of excellent medical care, They have treated our every illness with a level of professionalism that should be the envy of all small town doctors offices. The entire staff receptionist nurses and doctor operate as one. The care you get there is an example of where our medical profession should be trying to take us under Obamacare … The facts are that Birgitta’s cancer was found on a routine physical. The lesion showed up on a routine x-ray. The same x-ray that showed negative almost one year to the day before should serve as a warning to all never to skip the routine preventative care available. The fact that her cancer had progressed so far so fast that it was beyond effective treatment in only one year was sad. The great medical care she got after diagnosis could only prolong the inevitable. That she was expected to live six months and survived for thirteen was in part due to the professional care she got in Florida. The other part was that Swedish refusal to quit. At the last as the end approached One of the very professional Hospice staff told me “I have observed the love between you and your wife. You need to do something. You need to give her permission to let go, to stop the fight. You need to give her your permission to die”. I thought about that and it made sense. So as she was being prepared by another Hospice nurse and my daughters for her last bed bath I had a few moments alone with her. I told her she had fought long enough. She had two goals to have her birthday with our friends in New York and Thanksgiving with our family in Atlanta. I told her you have accomplished your goals and you need to rest now, Just go to sleep, Let go my love. Remember the peace and tranquility you felt on Jungfru, it’s there waiting for you. I left the room. Twenty minutes later they called me; she had gone. She had gone to her heaven while they were bathing her. I don’t know if my words helped her to decide but I love to think that they provided her with the comfort she needed most in those last moments. It was the hardest most right thing I have ever done in my life.

She died at home in her own bed with loving people in attendance. All of her daughters and granddaughters had visited her frequently over the past few months. A cousin and her daughter came from Sweden to show their love, Her brother a frequent visitor also from Sweden until he could no longer stand to see her slowly drift away. My brother Jack and his wife Maria were always available and often there. Maria wrote Birgitta the most wonderful personal letter I have ever read expressing her love. She left us knowing how very much we all cared. But, sadly she left us.

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