Thursday, 6 December 2012

I wonder what it would be like to be

more than a hundred years old? Recently, the "world's oldest person" was reported as having died at the age of 116. I am not sure how you can still be the world's oldest person if you are dead or how they know that the person in question was the world's oldest person but never mind, that is how it was reported.
This morning our state newspaper was full of the news that Dame Elisabeth Murdoch has died at the age of 103. Unlike her son, Rupert Murdoch, I had some time for the feisty old lady. She did a great deal of good in her life, particularly in relation to hospitals and like places. She used her position for good. She will be missed by many..
But I wonder how many people of 103 or more would be missed by more than their immediate families? Who is left to mourn them?
My godmother's mother lived to 103. When she died there were very few people at her funeral. By then my godmother had been living interstate for years and would come on an annual visit to see her mother in a nursing home. In between she would make a twice weekly 'phone call and send letters and photographs, doing her best to keep in touch with her mother. My godmother's brother and sister also kept in touch but not as regularly. They were both in "supported accommodation" by the time their mother died and did not come for the funeral although their children did.
I went. My parents went because my godmother had been my mother's friend since early childhood. There were some staff from the nursing home and a "much younger" friend, in her early nineties. I do not remember anyone else being there.
Who could be there?
Another 103 year old of my acquaintance died recently. There were a handful of people at her funeral too. If she had died at 93 the church would have been full but in the intervening ten years she would often say things like,
         "Another two funerals this week dear."
Her friends and acquaintances kept dying around her.
Most people of 103 have few, if any, friends of a similar age left. They have outlived them. My paternal grandfather once told me he had "lived too long". His friends had died around him. There was nobody to share childhood memories with. It was even difficult to find people who shared memories of his early adult life. It was not that he wanted to live in the past. He did not. He was always looking to the future. My father is the same.
Do people of that great age find it reassuring to look at the past though? Perhaps it allows them to say, "Yes, I have achieved something."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

My grandmother was very sad when the last of the friends in her age group died, partly because he was the last one who had similar memories.

I missed my father when he died, not just for his "good fatherliness" but for his areas of expertise, such as knowledge about wood, knots, old songs...