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  • Writer's pictureSt Giles Online

A life unknown

Eileen died suddenly in her flat at the St Giles and St George Almshouse in Macklin Street in mid-October. (It doesn’t matter that you who read this did not know her). She was not particularly well, had had poor eyesight and was in her eighties, yet her death came as an unwelcome shock to the other seven residents of the close-knit company of the Almshouse, as you can imagine, as well as to her extended family. (She was a single person). I went with two other residents to her funeral in Croydon on a beautiful autumnal afternoon. Sally, the ‘independent funeral celebrant,’ (a new one on me), led the service nicely, and we even had a smattering of religion in the Ave Maria played out over the loudspeaker and the 23rd Psalm (Crimond) to which only myself and my two companions (one eighty and one ninety year old) seemed to be singing, though no scripture to speak of.

Anyway, my point is that amongst the smorgasbord of calm words and soothing platitudes, I learned from Sally that Eileen (whom I did not know at all well) had served as a nurse for 50 years in Canada; and, not for the first time, I was at once reminded of how our stereotypes of age (perhaps even our prejudices) blind us all to the lifetimes of skill

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