Lonesome widow touched many

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An 88-year-old widow in Oslo, Reidun Orest, didn’t want to spend Christmas Eve alone, so she placed a classified ad in local newspaper Aften late last week offering “good pay” to anyone willing to keep her company. The response was overwhelming, leading Orest to believe that there really are “a lot of kind folks out there.”

Despair turned into smiles when Reidun Orest started reading through the piles of letters she received in response to her ad seeking companionship on Christmas Eve. Now she hopes other lonesome people will inspired to reach out as well. PHOTO: NRK screen grab/newsinenglish.no

Orest’s ad was straightforward: “Lonesome widow with no family wants someone to be together with on Christmas Eve. Will pay well.”

She told Aften that she placed the ad impulsively, after both her son and her brother died in the past year. She lost her husband in 1983, adding that other relatives in both the US and Sweden also have died and she had no one to celebrate with on Christmas Eve.

“There are some arrangements at the local elder center during the day, but it’s in the evening that folks sit alone and brood,” said Orest, a former district official for the Conservative Party. Christmas Eve in particular “can be very long” for very many people, she said.

Orest was aware of other events arranged for people with nowhere to go on Christmas Eve, “but it’s something else to be invited home to someone for dinner,” she told Aften. “Then it’s more personal, you can get better acquainted with folks.”

Reidun Orest’s decision to advertise her loneliness and desire to spend Christmas Eve in someone’s home even led to an appearance on NRK’s national nightly TV news program, here with anchor Ingvild Bryn. PHOTO: NRK screen grab/newsinenglish.no

Not only was her ad spotted by many in the paper but it became a topic of discussion over social media during the weekend. By early this week, Orest had received offers of everything from Christmas lunch at Oslo’s fashionable Theater Café to family dinners in people’s homes. Many wrote long letters to Orest, after being moved to tears by her ad. Other media picked up the story and on Tuesday evening, Orest was invited to appear as the prime guest on Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK)’s nightly nationwide TV newscast Dagsrevyen. It was all rather overwhelming, but gratifying for Orest.

“I didn’t think I’d get any response at all,” Orest told Aften. “I just thought I’d take a chance by placing the ad and then see what would happen.”

The response has warmed her heart and now her only problem is deciding which invitation she’ll accept. All of those inviting her stressed that they don’t want her to pay them anything at all. City politicians and heads of various humanitarian organizations, also touched by Orest’s initiative, said they hope would-be hosts for Orest will now contact their volunteer services and extend their invitations to others in Orest’s situation.

“It’s not necessary for folks to sit home alone, but many do,” Orest said. “Many are nervous about taking the initiative or extending invitations themselves. But you don’t have to ask folks to a full dinner, just a cup of coffee and a chat helps.”

The 88-year-old widow who uses both a walker and a wheelchair now lives in what’s called an omsorgsbolig in Oslo, a specially designed but small apartment for the elderly or impaired. “If I still had my big old flat, I would have invited someone myself,” said Orest.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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