When Life Ends

Salme Kaarina Tanska née Kaski

4.9.1927 –     18.12.2018

It has been a long and emotionally exhausting twelve days. Markku (TRH), his brothers and father have been supporting each other through the final days of his mother’s life. Early this morning she breathed her last.

At 91 years of age I guess you could say she has lived a long and eventful life. As it has been.  But these final farewells are never easy.

Growing up in a small coastal country town in the north of Finland, she had to sadly farewell her only brother who was one of many casualties of the war. It left her as an only child. She found the loss difficult.

Married life on a small farm with  livestock and grain crops provided the family some sustenance. But it was not enough. She worked the farm, raised her three young boys, whilst her husband worked as an electrician to supplement their income.

In the late 1960’s, they decided to move their young family to Australia. The lure of a better life beckoned. The mining industry in north Queensland was booming. It would also give her and the family the opportunity to spend time with her father who lived in the mining town of Mt Isa.

It must have been a huge culture shock moving from a freezing -45C winter to a searing +45C desert heat. Mt Isa back then had a thriving Finnish community with most men working underground in the copper mines. It also boasted a vibrant Finnish Lutheran Church. That’s how we met. My father was the pastor of that congregation.

When he accepted a call to establish a congregation in Adelaide, I moved with my parents. It was not long before Markku followed in my footsteps. In the early autumn of 1973 we married. His parents and two younger brothers also moved and settled in Adelaide.

They quickly purchased a home. It was not long before a better house, just down the street, came on the market. One they liked better. Another move saw them settle into a home for the long term. It eventually  boasted their own swimming pool and sauna. As is only right for any self respecting Finn.

That was to be their home whilst the children grew up, married, and moved into their own homes. Seven grandchildren followed over the years, providing much joy, love and laughter. Aside from being a busy homemaker, she loved craftwork to the extent that on one of their return trips home she brought back the family spinning wheel and a loom on which many a rag rug was made. Reading and a close involvement in the church community also provided her with much joy and comfort.

Years later, a retirement home beckoned. Situated on a hilly slope, it was designed and built by Ray, the family carpenter with able assistance from his father and brothers. Another house sale and move saw life settle into a more leisurely groove. Salme continued with her passions although a slowly deteriorating eyesight made it increasingly difficult for her.

Some thirteen years ago they sold that home and moved into the only Finnish retirement village in Australia. Located in the sunny capital city of Queensland, Brisbane, it’s spacious, beautifully landscaped grounds and independent living villas proved too much of a temptation. Finlandia Village provided services in their mother tongue, or with the support of an interpreter. They enjoyed a very active social life there for many years.

It had not been an easy decision leaving family behind. Visits back and forth were dictated by the tyranny of distance. Failing health and  increased care needs saw her move into the nursing home complex of Finlandia Village for the last year of her life. It is but a short walk from the villa home, making it easy for her husband to visit and spend the days by her side.  An increasing need for family support also became inevitable and the brothers took turns flying up to support and help as needed.

Now a life that started out on the other side of the world has ended. And a new chapter begins for those of us remaining.

finally resting in peace

Raili Tanska

37 thoughts on “When Life Ends

  1. My deepest sympathy. Even at 91, and suffering, a mother is till mother and that is a position that can never be filled by anyone else. May your happy memories eventually bring comfort.

  2. I remember my godmother Salme very well and we always waited Salme ja Pekka to Finland, when I was a child.

    1. Thank you Beverley. That rendition is particularly beautiful, I thought. And fitting for my mother-in-law given it is sung by four males. She was cradled by her three sons and husband on her last days.

    1. Thank you Jane. Markku’s dad is flying here for Christmas on Saturday where he will be surrounded by family. Funeral is Friday. It has been a painful last 12 months, particularly for him.

      1. It’s a good call. You will know how to make him as comfortable as possible. I can’t imagine how it feels to lose a spouse after so many years. It would be like losing a part of yourself.

      2. it takes folks different ways. When my dad died – after the initial period of grief – mum had a whale of a time. She suddenly realised she could do whatever she liked, whenever she liked.

      3. Yes, my sister-in-law’s mum is like that. Her husband refused to travel. Since she’s been widowed she has been to over 20 countries, on cruises, tours – you name it.

  3. Dear Raili, what a beautiful tribute to a lovely lady, who was brave enough to leave all she knew behind her to start a new life in Australia..
    My heartfelt thoughts are with you all.. Thank you for sharing your Mother-in-laws life with us, 91 is a splendid age to finally be called Home..
    Love and Blessings.. ❤ Sue

  4. sorry for your loss and thanks so much for sharing this insight into your families life … loving tribute about their courageous move and meeting your husband. So glad your fil can be with the family on his first Christmas without her. Lovely rendition, take care 🙂

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