As we continue to endure the effects of the coronavirus pandemic and although we are seeing a few green shoots of normality, many older people and those who are classed as vulnerable continue to self-isolate. More sadly, many are no longer with us, having succumbed to the virus.
Many families are keeping in touch with older relatives through phone calls, letters and video calls. We are checking they are keeping well and have enough to occupy them as well as ensuring their mental health is not suffering.
But how many of us are using this time as a special opportunity to get to know them better?
I was reminded of this with a recent conversation with my own ninety-year-old mother during the VE Day 75th Anniversary. We chatted over the telephone about the various programmes she had enjoyed on the TV but then out of the blue, she started telling me about an incident as a girl, when she was shot at by a German fighter plane. She was pulled to safety by a British soldier in the nick of time.
She went on to talk about the celebrations that went on in her village and how she was more interested in her hairstyle and the local boys than anything else (she was 15 at the time).
As she remembered one thing, it led to more ‘revelations’ that I had never heard her talk about. Bombs going off. Spies in the village. Fascinated, I jotted down as much as I could and asked her to write these things down while they were fresh in her mind.
It made me realise how precious this time is with our older loved ones; their past can teach us so much about coping with adversity due to their wartime and early experiences with food rationing, lack of clothes, communities pulling together and finding joy in the little things.
To encourage her more, I bought her a special My Life Story Book. This is separated into sections for family trees, happy memories, holidays etc with space for photographs and mementoes to be added.
Why don’t we all use this extended time to really talk to our older relatives and learn all we can about them. These books will become family treasures to ensure our loved ones are more than a faded photograph.