Edit takes one last look at their decorated Christmas tree before leaving for Budapest to have dinner with their friends. Jano can no longer attend. Will this be their last Christmas together?
Edit takes one last look at their decorated Christmas tree before leaving for Budapest to have dinner with their friends. Jano can no longer attend. Will this be their last Christmas together?

My aunt, Edit Götz, celebrated her 72nd birthday on June 22nd. The celebration, held in the tastefully decorated home reflecting Edit's good taste, was a quiet affair within a small family circle. The family has been dealing with other matters lately. It's been almost two years since Edit's husband, János Götz, started experiencing a worsening of his Parkinson's syndrome.

Known as Jano, Edit's husband has been in need of continuous care for months. Edit prefers to handle his care at home, and she is assisted by a 24-hour nurse. Providing adequate assistance in Hungary is a challenging task, so there are days and shorter periods when Edit and her two adult children have to manage the caregiving alone.

Edit and her husband married in 1971 after dating for five years. They have been together through thick and thin for 58 years. Witnessing her husband's mental and physical decline has been emotionally taxing. The past two years involved frequent visits to doctors, Jano being hospitalized multiple times, and in recent months, his condition has significantly deteriorated. The couple, once part of a large circle of friends, well-traveled and with an active social life, now find themselves confined within the four walls. Friends have disappeared, only occasionally inquiring about Jano's condition over the phone.

I remember, as a child, always admiring my sophisticated aunt with refined taste in clothing. Fashion has always played a crucial role in her life, even owning a fashion store for several years. Her keen sense of colors and textiles is evident not only in her clothing but also in the meticulously designed home. Professionally trained as a laboratory assistant, Edit also dabbled in interior design for years. As her husband's business career began to thrive, Edit focused on her domestic responsibilities. For decades, she has provided a stable background for her husband, children, and later, grandchildren—a warm, loving home for all. Now, my 72-year-old aunt faces a new challenge. Besides caring for her husband, she must emotionally prepare for an unfamiliar life, where she'll need to stand her ground and make responsible decisions. She'll have to redefine herself, find goals that give meaning to existence.

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How does it feel to be 72?

I can't pay attention to my 72 years. Jano's illness demands all my attention. This has been the prevailing theme of my life over the past two years. The illness has disrupted every aspect of our existence. Once accustomed to a dynamic life of travel and socializing, we found ourselves grounded when his health took a downturn two years ago. Throughout my life, Jano provided security, but now the roles are reversed. I must ensure it for him. Coping is hard; I am uncertain about a future without him, the duration of this struggle. My spirit is shattered at 72.

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What do you look forward to?

Right now, the only thing I'm looking forward is tranquility. Dealing with the dementia of my husband is extremely challenging. Establishing emotional stability is impossible. As his mind changes, so does my mood, my vision of the future. Right now, I feel like I'm in great chaos, in a whirlpool that sometimes lifts me up, sometimes pulls me down. I try to stay strong for him, for our children, grandchildren, and of course, for myself, but there are days when it's just not possible. I eagerly anticipate achieving peace within this intricate situation and embracing whatever lies ahead.

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What is your biggest concern?

My biggest concern is loneliness. What my life will be like without my husband. I've never lived alone, I don't think I've really grown up yet. Besides my husband, Mum was always there for me. I have to learn to stand on my own. Now that I spend almost all my time with my husband, I don't have much for my grandchildren. I am also afraid that when that changes, they will no longer need my company. They are big boys now. I'm terrified to think that they won't need me anymore.

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Life expectancy 2023

77.31
years
Hungary

About the photographer

Bea Kovács

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Bea Kovács is a Budapest-based Hungarian freelance photographer focusing on documentary storytelling. She finds fulfillment in long-term projects, dedicated to exploring social issues affecting women and small communities.

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