16 December 2010

Always with Me

No matter where I might be or what I may be experiencing, my ancestors are always with me.  Over the past few years, I have been developing a deeper relationship with them through explorations of family history.  You may be interested in visiting my Ancestors Within blog on this subject.

In the past few days, one more of my relatives has become an ancestor - my paternal grandmother, who was known to the world as Vera.  Even though she lived on the other side of the planet from me for the last twenty years or so, I have always felt her presence in my life.  Whenever we met again, on my visits to England, or whenever we chatted on the telephone, my grandmother was always cheerful, with a lively mind.

Vera (1915-2010)

Even on the day before she died, Vera was doing crossword puzzles.  That is something to admire in someone who reaches the age of 95.  She liked to do a crossword puzzle every day, and to watch quiz shows on television.  After a recent fall, though, many of Vera's daily routines, and her desire for continuing independence, were put to the test.

Vera loved being by the sea at Shell Island in North Wales, where the above picture was taken in 2000.  She loved a cup of tea, and watching football.  In her earlier years her team was Arsenal, probably because she lived just down the road from its ground.  She met her husband George at a dance in Devon and found out that he liked Arsenal, too.  That blossomed into a romance soon afterwards.

Growing older is a challenge for many of us.  For Vera, though, home games of Manchester United were a regular feature of her life until quite recently.  She said in 2005 that she was getting too old to go any more because whenever her team scored a goal, everyone around her would stand up.  By the time she managed to stand up, everyone else would be sitting down again.

Via and Vera, 1994

I was Vera's first grandchild.  I was the first grandchild for all four of my grandparents, none of whom were particularly religious or dogmatic in any way.  A few days ago, though, my grandmother was singing Abide with Me.  After being told that by my mother, I wondered why.  Not being a follower of a religion myself, and not being a follower of football either, I found out that the hymn is sung at FA Cup Finals.  It will be played at my grandmother's funeral.

The last time I was at a family funeral was in 1978, for Vera's husband George.  When my grandfather Harry's funeral took place, I was on a plane to Australia for the first time.  When my grandmother Dorothy died, I was in the middle of my university studies in Australia.  Dorothy had dementia, but Vera was lucky to avoid that fate.  The hymn my mother chose for her mother's funeral was the traditional English version of All Things Bright and Beautiful.

Vera as a baby

Life takes us all to the same destination at its end, whatever our beliefs about that end might be.  Vera was fortunate to have a very long journey and a relatively peaceful end.  There are many who are not so fortunate.

After George died, Vera travelled to world.  She visited relatives in Canada and then explored such places as Morocco, Egypt, and India.  Perhaps my desire to travel was inherited from her.

I will not be able to attend Vera's funeral but I plan to be at a memorial ceremony for her on Shell Island, on a sunny day in June 2011.  She always preferred warm weather to snow and ice, just like me.

Here are some YouTube videos to reflect upon:

Vera was a longtime fan of Bruce Forsyth - something from the 1970s here

Vera's hymn - Abide with Me - Sung by Harry Seacombe

Dorothy's hymn - All Things Bright and Beautiful

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