I wanted to write a blog about an important part of our society today, one that seems to be over-looked. That part is the elderly.
You see an old woman pacing steadily down the street, it is a cold march morning and the rain is blinding her eyes, she pulls the faded head scarf closer around her face, her skin is chapped from the wind. If only someone could softly hold onto her arm and take her home.
Has her husband left her? Has he left her to live without him? In a world she longer knows as her 'home'.
She had chosen to live here, here where I gaze up, here where it is quiet and gloomy, here where it is lonely and where she had chosen on her own accord to mother the word -'neglect'.
That woman is Eileen Nearne and it was her story that influenced my world and my own passions immensely.
She was an S.O.E- a WW2 spy in France, part of the Secret Operations Executive. She was caught and tortured by the Nazi's three times and each time she never gave in and managed to escape their clutches by claiming to be an innocent 'shop girl'. Yet what did the world see of her? The youth? The strangers who passed her by every day? No one knew and so no one cared.
She didn't want to be pestered, she wanted a quiet life by the sea. A woman who deserved to be honoured everyday of her life by what she did and who she was.
It makes me shiver because I think of all the dear elderly today, walking, living as time has served them, these wonderful people with extraordinary tales, these magnificent beings who live as though they are 'just some other O.A.P', when in reality they should be treasured and respected.
It makes me so sad.
How I wish age couldn't restrict in the way it does, how I wish it wouldn't scorn the hearts moving inside, how I wish it reflected the truth of the character within. The worst part to Eileen's story is that she was so easily forgotten by her own country whom she gave her entire life for and risked everything for. She died penniless, with barely no pension and nothing to pay for her funeral, with no family around her.
When finally discovered dead from a heart attack, the truth was revealed. Her hidden papers opened up a secret life. A life she had barely murmured about. And that newspaper report was then shown to the world and the truth was finally made known. And we based our drama exam on her and the other forgotten S.O.E's, we paid a tribute of our own to her life and those like her. If only she could see the plaque on the old flat of hers, or the thousands who came to her funeral even though she wouldn't know any of them- perhaps she had had thoughts about how people would find her papers and documents when she died. Perhaps she worried over her small sum of money each week. Perhaps she had never once tried to intentionally think of the old days and the faces that had been living in it.
It is such a mystery- human thoughts! We can try but never know anyone's mind; only our own.
Yesterday it was Mothering Sunday and my family and I went to visit a dear old lady who is like a mother to my mother. We have known her since she had her own home and now has only recently been brought to an elderly home. I listened to how she had been left for an hour, calling for someone to come, shivering in the cold, but nobody came to wash her. It didn't suit her being dependant on others, all her life she had never given in. It didn't seem fair that her body was failing her before her mind, or yet is it worse the other way around?
We decided to have a little look-in on an old lady that was also there. I remember going in to see her when I was only 8 or 9 to sing carols, and I remember her croaky voice joining in with us. This time it was very different.
She sat alone, her face withered and drawn. She didn't know who any of us were, there she sat in the same place, in the same dark room with a view of the back of a building and there she had been for years. I couldn't stop the tears from falling silently down my face as I watched my mother crouch down beside her clasping her hand and pointing to the picture of her and her husband which sat rigidly on her table before her; a teasing, treacherous reminder of her old days and the contrast of what she now had become. She lent forward and studied the picture and said in a shaking croaky voice, 'who's that?'
It broke my heart to see such a disintegrating change that was slowly wearing her away. Her mind was gone; her power was gone; her soul was gone. Everything had left her. She could only comment on how cold it was and asked what the time was.
I write all this to remind myself, to never let forgetfulness or ignorance prevail when I think of the elderly. I know I am dependant on them for wisdom, for intelligence, and inspiration. They gave each of us life and taught us how to live. I have learnt a lot in these past days. We can hold onto nothing in this life, even our bodies and our mind will fade away and we shall be no more. So I cling to the hope of the future eternity where no rust or ruin can creep in and 'oldness' will be no more. Everything there shall be new and I shall delight in the praise of my Lord and each and every forgotten hero will join with me, remarkable or ordinary-we shall simply be as one.
Then your father who sees what is done in secret, will reward you- Matthew 6.4