My hero died at 103, but then an older one danced into my life


My hero died at 103, but then an older one danced into my life

FREE TO READ | She's one of those women you wish you could live with and follow around so that some of what she has rubs off on you

My grandmother died at the age of 103, and the news has come as something of a blow to me, not because we were at all close – I didn’t like her and I don’t think she thought much about me one way or the other – but because I assumed she would live forever, like some sort of terrifying, Anubis-headed Egyptian grand-mummy-in-waiting.

She didn’t, though, which makes me consider the possibility that immortality doesn’t in fact run in my bloodline. There are many ways of growing old – my grandmother favoured regular walks after lunch, games of tennis and eating the souls of the unwary – but in the end I wouldn’t say hers worked especially well for quality of life. Other than taking satisfaction in her lifelong hobby of keeping people waiting, I don’t imagine she took much joy from her last years. But that isn’t the way it has to be.

Last year, Trudy Smith died, also 103, and I was far sadder about that. I never met Trudy Smith, but she was an inspiring old broad. She was a working artist. Oil paintings were her field – sometimes abstracts, sometimes landscapes – and when she held an exhibition in 2018 she was pleased with the work of creating and arranging and hanging the work, but found the job of talking to people somewhat distasteful. Fairly late in life, she had realised that she was actually quite shy and antisocial and didn’t care, and she preferred spending time with her paints and her canvasses rather than fussing and making conversation and having to care what other people think about her. She made this realisation round about the first time she first picked up a paintbrush – just after her husband died, when she was 85 years old...

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