Well, it’s finally happened and Gladys died yesterday. An event waiting to happen for a long, long time, in my opinion. More shocking to note, possibly, is that all I can feel about it is a mild relief and the thought that I won’t have to schedule in my weekly twenty minute silent visit to her any more. Which, I have to say, is more than anything a scathing revelation of my sadly lacking sense of humanity. I’ve been told already by well-meaning friends what a shame it was for “poor Gladys”. Yes, well, it’s a pitiful end to a life – I don’t think dying in a nursing home in the grip of a terrible depression is anyone’s idea of a good ending – but I have to say I’m glad it’s over. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t.
What’s focusing my mind most of all is (a) the nagging worry that in forty years’ time (assuming I get that long), it’s going to be me. Well, like Gladys, I’m child-free from choice and with very distant family – though in my case that’s emotionally and not necessarily geographically. Frankly, I can’t imagine anything worse than dying with my blood relatives around me. God forbid. I haven’t been that greatly impressed with the sum of them during life, so what on earth would I want with them in the dying process? Oh, and (b) no matter how much I try to reassure myself from a Christian perspective, I have to admit I’m not at all enamoured of the thought of the afterlife. Really, I just don’t want to go there. I don’t like change and Heaven, should it exist, seems crowded with people – two of my worse-case scenarios indeed. I’d far rather – if I have to think about death at all – be somewhere nice and quiet with Lord H and not have to worry about anyone else. That would be Heaven indeed. Much like being at home then.
Anyway, things I remember best about Gladys and I think are important to note, both bad and good, are: (a) I have to admit I didn’t like her that much, though in some respects I admired her and was also, at times, sorry for her; (b) she could be quite cutting about aspects of my appearance (never great at the best of times) when she wanted to be (hence the (a) note); (c) she and her late husband Charlie stole the frogspawn from their landlord’s garden when they left the flat they were in to move to Godalming, and I thought that was hellishly stylish – it always made me smile; (d) she and Charlie used to go on a lot of serious walking holidays all over Europe when they were young and once had a sing-song with Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears on a cruise ship round the ship’s piano. Totally magical indeed. Oh, and (e) she generally disliked children – which, naturally, I thought was wonderful.