Was she seventy and nine
When she died?
By this canvas may be seen
How she looked at seventeen, as a bride…
Were Romney’s limning true,
What a lucky dog were you,
To My Grandmother, Suggested by a Picture by Mr. Romney, by Frederick Locker-Lampson
A month and a half ago, the senior lady who I was visiting as a volunteer died. Naturally, I went to her funeral. I had only known her aged, frail, and modest. Once in a while she’d reveal a glimmer of her past, for example, that she and her husband used to adore going out dancing in the 1940s and early 1950s. At her funeral, assembled by her family, was a board of photographs from her entire life. As a light-footed blonde bride, she resembled one of the most petite and talented burlesque dancers I know.
I was irresistibly reminded of my own grandmother – also old, also tiny, though still alive, with a rose-cheeked sturdiness about her. Visiting her several years ago, I stumbled upon another one of those jaw-dropping old photos, one that had captured her as a 1930s stunner with a knowing glance beneath her coronet of hair. Boldly, I asked her, “What was it like to be so beautiful?” She replied, “I was never that beautiful. I just did the best I could with what I had.”
From these two piercing moments, and the time it took for this entry to ferment from my quiet sadness, I learned.
I learned that grief takes a while. That I should keep old photographs, and take new ones. Making time for seniors is worthwhile. And doing the best I can with what I’ve got runs in the family.
We’ll let Fred have the last word here, as a very fitting farewell:
In travail, as in tears,
With the fardel of her years,
With mercy she was borne
Where the weary and the worn
Are at rest.