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Charlottetown woman, 92, sets out for special visit with cherished sister

Della Kielly, 92, of Charlottetown holds a photo of her sister Jean Soper when the sibling made her last visit to P.E.I. about five years ago. Kielly is going to visit her beloved sibling, who has Alzheimer's disease, in a nursing home in Rhode Island.
Della Kielly, 92, of Charlottetown holds a photo of her sister Jean Soper when the sibling made her last visit to P.E.I. about five years ago. Kielly is going to visit her beloved sibling, who has Alzheimer's disease, in a nursing home in Rhode Island. - Jim Day

The sibling bond has long been tight, but only one of these two sisters still has a firm grasp on the special relationship.

Della Kielly, 92, of Charlottetown reflects fondly on many cherished moments spent with her 90-year-old sister, Jean Soper.

Della was right in the middle of the pack of eight children consisting of five boys and three girls.

The whole clan was tight-knit, but Della was closest to her younger sister Jean.

As children, the pair would push one another in a tire, sending a sibling rolling wildly downhill. There were, quite naturally, plenty of crashes.

“We done crazy things, I guess,’’ says Della.

“Sort of tomboys.’’

The family was far from well-to-do but more than capable of enjoying and embracing life.

There would be pick-up baseball and a variety of board games like checkers to keep Della, Jean and the other six children amused.

“Back then, you had to make your own fun,’’ notes Della.

At age 18, Jean moved to Boston with her aunt. She worked in a factory, got married to Albert Soper and had five children.

Della stayed on P.E.I., worked in an office before marrying Lorne Kielly, and had three children of her own.

A dozen or so years flew past before the two siblings saw each other again. That was when Della travelled to Boston with her husband to visit Jean, to meet Jean’s husband and to see Jean’s first child.

Jean and her family would proceed to regularly visit P.E.I. and drop in on Della in her small house in Covehead.

For decades, the sisters would see each other every year or two.

When the children left the nest, Jean and her husband bought a cottage in Stanhope right next to Della’s cottage.

“There was just a lane between,’’ notes Della.

The sisters would enjoy one another’s company all summer long. Summer after summer.

“Jean and I had a good relationship. We always had a good time together,’’ says Della.

“Very close bond.’’

About five years ago, Jean was starting to show early signs of dementia. That marked her last visit to P.E.I.

Della has not seen her sister since.

She knows her sister has Alzheimer’s disease and that the condition has progressed considerably since the pair of siblings was last together.

On Monday, Della will set out to Rhode Island to visit Jean in a nursing home.

The encounter will predictably spur in Della many emotions, from love to sadness.

“I don’t really know what to expect, honest to goodness,’’ says Della.

“I feel I already said goodbye to her the last time I saw her because she was beginning to not know people then.’’

Della does not expect her sister to recognize her. She hopes, however, to see a glimpse or two of a familiar characteristic in her beloved sibling.

“I have no idea how it is going to feel like,’’ she adds.

Regardless how the encounter plays out, Della, at 92, is determined to make, as a motor vehicle passenger, the 11-hour drive to Rhode Island for what will likely be the last time she sees her sister alive.

“I just feel I’d like to see her,’’ says Della.

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