Love, Loss, and Life: The Extraordinary Story of Robertina Cole

Auntie Tina 1

A printed copy of “Love, Loss, and Life: The Extraordinary Story of Robertina Cole.” Photo taken by Sara Letourneau. Do not use without the author’s permission.

“Love, Loss, and Life: The Extraordinary Story of Robertina Cole” was one of the most personal and rewarding journeys I’ve taken thanks to writing. It’s the life story of my great-great-aunt Tina, who persevered through a number of tragedies during her life. She raised her younger siblings along with her own family after her parents passed away. She married three times and was widowed as many times. Despite these losses, Tina pursued her dream of becoming a nurse and maintained her faith, compassionate nature, and quick sense of humor. It’s the ultimate example of how someone can overcome any obstacle and live a life of excitement, gratitude, and love.

Work on “Love, Loss, and Life” began in August 2009. That’s when Tina (age 91 at the time) asked me to help her record her life story. Over the next year, we sat down for several interviews and discussed her life: from her birth in 1918 and her childhood in Walpole, Massachusetts, to her nursing studies in her 40s and the resiliency she developed because of her numerous losses. We also talked about births, weddings, family and friends, hobbies, religion, and relevant events in U.S. and world history. The final book (see the first photo on this page) was printed in December 2010, just in time for Tina to give copies to her children and their families for Christmas. Interestingly enough, Tina’s determination showed through during the process of making this book. Her motivation to finish it never waned when she was hospitalized and then admitted to a long-term nursing home facility in mid-2010.

Tina and me at the nursing home in December 2010. Photo taken from "Love, Loss, and Life." Do not use without the author's permission.

Tina and me at the nursing home in December 2010. Photo taken from “Love, Loss, and Life.” Do not use without the author’s permission.

When I first interviewed Tina, I didn’t know much about her. In fact, all I knew about her was that she was an aunt of my maternal grandmother. Once Tina began telling me her story, however, I realized how much ground we would need to cover – and how much I could learn from her. We became very close as a result of making “Love, Loss, and Life.” Tina gave me advice, made me laugh until my ribs hurt, showed me pictures of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and encouraged me to reach for my goal of becoming a published writer. She had seen and experienced so much than I probably ever will, and to have had the chance to understand her motivations, opinions, and character has opened my eyes as well as my heart.

After we finished her book, I continued visiting Tina at the nursing home until she passed away in January 2012. As sad as it was to lose a cherished friend, I was – and still am – comforted to know that her family was there with her when she passed. Even more so, I’m glad that I knew her as well as I did, and I hope with all of my heart that I can live a life as fulfilling as hers was.