Weary Ballarat residents have been desperate to mingle with family and friends in a domestic setting for months, yet, for a time, there seemed no end in sight.
Fortunately, with restrictions to ease, such gatherings will become reality. Numbers in the home will be limited to 10 with precautions needed for under 12s and full vaccination recommended.
For Lorna Murphy, Marg McKenna, and Deidre McRae, the lifting of prohibitions is to be embraced.
The triumvirate has collectively lived for 250 years and, in the past, the close friends would gather on several occasions across 12 months.
However, despite their internal youthfulness, the pandemic era has been a battle.
"Absolutely (we have struggled)," Ms McRae said. "Not being able to catch up for lunches, not being able to catch up even in the home just to say, 'Hi!' (has been hard)."
Ms McRae, without family of her own, has particularly been concerned for her offsiders who have been unable to have relations visit.
"They have suffered," she said of Ms Murphy and Ms McKenna.
Many similarities are shared by the posse, but one stands out.
"We've all lost our husbands," Ms McRae said.
"Lorna's husband passed away. I drove Lorna to Marg's husband's funeral. My partner died in 1984; I was 33. He was 42; he died of a heart attack. One of the underlying similarities would be our strength to continue without having had much support to cope with grief."
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When people reunite there is much to rediscover, lessons about being human and about relationships; messages about decency, loyalty, and support.
"(We share) laughter," Ms McRae said. "(We laugh about) life and memories."
The benefits which stem from socialising are not tangible, but they are invaluable.
"(We feel) emotionally superb," Ms McRae said. "It keeps the spirit alive."
Diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006, Ms McRae is indebted to Ms Murphy, herself a survivor, and Ms McKenna.
"The pair of them helped me through my journey," she said.
Ms McRae has nothing but admiration for her two more senior companions.
"They're stoic people; they don't complain," she said. "They remember the war; they know hardship. They're very strong."
In fact, the younger of the trio idolises the two older stalwarts: "I want to be like them," Ms McRae said. "I want to be as great as Lorna and Marg. I just love these people."
While face masks and vaccinations have been the enforced weapons to combat COVID, it is worth remembering the significance of friendship: "They keep me alive," Ms McRae concludes.
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