At over 100 years old, consider the lifetime of my Great Aunt Audrey who died this evening.
She married Bill, the Reverend William Dodd, after he turned her head delivering a sermon in the convent hospital that was her work and home. They were happily married for many years as he ran his parish in Gloucestershire. He died some twenty-five to thirty years ago, as part of that five year spell in my late teens that I look back on as the great purge of their generation. Somehow she survive the purge. And survived and survived. Sadly she survived with a diminishing amount of memory.
Dementia is a cruel disease. Your personality, your life, slips away, yet life itself goes on.
What memories Auntie Audrey must have lost. The personal ones, Me, Bill, the many parishioners she cared for in lieu of the children she never had. But what of the others, the century of incredible change and history?
The Great War, the rise of communism, Spanish ‘flu, Irish partition, the rise of Nazism, the Second World War, the holocaust, the establishment of the NHS,the Abdication of a King, the death of a King, the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, The Beatles, JFK… You get the idea. If you don’t get the idea, try listening to the Billy Joel song “We Didn’t Start The Fire” (a bit US orientated, but it gives a long list).
The last century has seen so much change Great Auntie Audrey left a world that bore no similarity to the one in which she was born. Tonight my family lost her, but our world has lost so much in the time she lived. Valuable things. We ought to hold on to the things we value. They may not just happen, we have to make the effort to retain them.