Creating a legacy.
With photos, the ones we lose are never truly lost. They are found again, in captured moments and the memories they evoke. These snapshots in time can seem like small embers but they have the potential to be a fire that burns long after our last breath, stoked by the next generation and generations after. At MILK, we understand the importance of keeping the flame alight; we understand the importance of preserving a legacy.
That’s why we teamed up with the non-profit organisation Wish of a Lifetime Canada to help them fulfil Mathilda (Tilly) Koppes’ wish of commemorating the story of her late husband, Martin. Wish of a Lifetime Canada grants wishes to elders impacted by isolation, and in the years since Martin’s death, Tilly has wished only to preserve the life and love she shared with her husband so that their story may be passed on. And what a story it is.
Tilly and Martin's Story
It begins with the two of them dancing cheek to cheek at the local fair in Holland. Fast forward to see a snapshot of their hands drifting apart as Martin returns to British Columbia. Later, witness those same hands expressing love through parchment letters and eventually knocking at Martin's door.
Framed photos of sepia tones of the two at the altar intermingle with Tilly reading to her kindergarten class. Eventually more frames appear, this time of their own family outside their cozy BC home. Life as a family was captured as smiling kids in white boats with silver trout, car rides and hugs from mom and dad in silky graduation robes. Each memory shows the passing of time in Martin and Tilly’s faces as they grow older and wiser together.
The devoted duo moved to Chartwell Retirement Residences together in 2014 and the retired school teacher kept all their memories safe. The final chapter to their album was contrasted by views of IV bags, hospital gowns and the family giving one last hug goodbye to Martin in September 2016. Now Tilly lives alone, unable to hold hands with her beloved Martin again.
We know that a photo book is a humble substitute for the hand of your beloved but when Wish of a Lifetime Canada proposed the idea of helping Tilly preserve her odyssey of love in an album for each of her children, we didn't hesitate. Moments of Inspiration, Love and Kinship (MILK) is more than a name, it’s a duty of care to all the moments worth preserving.
Tilly - Then and Now
Born to a big family, Tilly learned the importance of sharing and the joys of generosity at a very young age. She was a youth leader with the Cub Scouts and Brownies, and later became active in religious education groups and other church activities, volunteering for a total of 36 years at her Catholic Church in the town of Chase. She is still compelled today to serve others to the best of her ability, running bingo and scrapbooking groups. Tilly’s nominator said that one of her strengths is “getting people to participate in all kinds of activities and spreading joy around the building.”
Tilly dedicated most of her life to caring for children. Tilly and Martin had three children of their own, and then undertook the great responsibility of raising five foster children, helping them “find their place in life.” Martin and Tilly shared many interests, including traveling, fishing, hiking, and volunteering. Tilly described her husband’s sudden passing in the fall of 2016 as “heartbreaking,” but she drew on her incredible strength, faith, and her love for her family and friends to cope with the loss.
But even in grief, Tilly turned her heartache into a meaningful project for her loved ones; a legacy in print. On April 14th 2018, Tilly’s 82nd birthday, Wish of a Lifetime Canada and Chartwell planned a grand celebration where Tilly gave each of her children a beautiful photo book dedicated to their father. “Tears were running down everyone’s cheeks,” said Tilly. “It was more than I ever could have imagined. A true celebration,” she continued. Tilly shared this special celebration with her grandsons, children, and daughter-in-law.
To the Koppes', Wish of a Lifetime Canada, and Chartwell Retirement Residences for allowing us to be a part of such a beautiful moment and for letting us get to know Martin. What a privilege.