My grandmother died earlier this month. She was 103. On Wednesday we had a lovely funeral service and celebrated a long life well lived. She was a very remarkable woman. Brought up as a farmer's daughter, studying at university in the days when not all young women had such an opportunity, a life as a primary teacher and a wife and mother (of my mother), she was remarkable for her character. She had a phenomenal memory (I wish I'd inherited even half of her capacity to remember people and funny stories), she was a "grafter" who found it harder to relax than to work (I am the exact opposite, unfortunately) and she had wonderful honour and integrity and goodness.
Her faith was lifelong and it was appropriate that her funeral service was held in the same church she had worshipped in since the age of five when the family moved to the area. Of course she never lost "incomer" status, technically, as she wasn't born in the village! My parents, brother and I lived with her for quite a number of years, and benefitted from, amongst other things, the soup that she made EVERY day. We called her the "Soup Dragon" - behind her back obviously - after a character in the old BBC television children's program "The Clangers". Her soup was great, as was the clootie dumpling she always made for anyone's birthday, and the pavlova that appeared if we had visitors.
Having a member of the family live for 103 years is an enormous privilege. I have been so much more abundantly grounded (can you be abundantly grounded?) in stories of my heritage and I'm also very glad that our kids are all big enough to remember their great gran.
I've been thinking, too, about what it means to have been around since 1907 in terms of the changes there have been in the world since then. I can't quite get my head round what it must have been like to live through such changes. I'm old enough to remember the first computers people had in their houses (the ZX81 for example) and when calculators came out. I remember when there was no such thing as videos, never mind DVDs. My children can't imagine how we functioned without mobile phones. I saw the first moon landing on television (I wasn't even at school, I want you to know) and I was at the launch of the QE2 (in my pushchair). But compared to the changes and the events that my gran lived through, this is nothing!
Through Google Images I've been looking at some photos of 1907, such as this car, a Ford Model R (the famous Model T was yet to come), and this tram at Edinburgh's Tollcross.
And I've been looking at 1907 in general (I love t'internet). For example, in March 1907, a month before my gran was born, the parliamentary elections in Finland were the first in the world with woman candidates, as well as the first elections in Europe where universal suffrage was applied. 1907 saw the birth of John Wayne and Daphne du Maurier. It was the year in which Robert Baden Powell led the first scout camp (on Brownsea Island in England) and the year in which the first taxicabs with taxi meters began operating (in London) as well as the year of the second Hague Convention.
My gran was born in the decade in which Orville and Wilbur Wright were getting us off the ground, and in which Einstein and Freud were proposing theories of relativity and psychology respectively. Picasso introduced cubism to the world the year my gran was born and plastic was invented two years later. For some reason the fact that my gran was born two years before the invention of plastic amazes me more than anything!
I knew my gran wouldn't last for ever, and she was ready to go, but an irrational bit of me secretly thought that as she'd always been there, she always would be. So I'll miss her, but I'm glad she's free at last from her frailty, and enjoying eternal life instead.