I have a friend, and I imagine many of you do as well, who has had a long, fruitful and interesting life. Maisie (not her name, but I shall protect her privacy) was a friend of my late mother's, and the same age - 95. She and my mum didn't get to see each other very often, because they were dependent on others for transport, but they phoned each other almost every day, to check on the other's well-being, and to have a chat and a chuckle. A large photo of my mum hangs on the wall over Maisie's television and she talks to her every day, including telling her off for what seems to Maisie her friend's untimely departure. Maisie can't see that photo at all well, because she is more or less blind. Over the last few years she has had a number of unpleasant interventions aimed at improving her sight, but nothing has really worked and now there is no more that can be done. She also suffers from an extremely painful arthritic knee, which of course impairs her mobility. So she hobbles round her little house on a pair of crutches, and when she goes to someone else's house, as she will soon do over Christmas, she has to acquaint herself with the layout of their furniture and other obstacles, and worries about nocturnal visits to the bathroom.
Maisie has down days, inevitably, but over all she is remarkably positive and philosophical. Her hearing is good, her mental faculties sharp as ever, and her sense of humour (which can be salty!) is never far away, so a conversation with Maisie is a delight. Above all she is thankful to God for the good things in her life, she takes an interest in other people, and she hangs on to her pleasures, chief among which is going out for lunch with her friends. One thing she said when I visited her the other day pretty much sums up her attitude: 'Oh well, at least I can still get out of the car and into the pub!'
There have been many peaks and troughs in Maisie's life - few of us can hope for plain sailing for 95 years, I guess! - and some of her troughs have been excruciating, including the loss of a son. Now (although she has younger friends) many of her contemporaries have died, which brings its own loneliness. But Maisie makes the best of the things that remain to her: a hairdresser comes to her house regularly, she has someone who cleans her house and someone who keeps her garden tidy, so people are visiting often. When we go to our house in France she sometimes asks me to bring her back some wine, and I know that most of those bottles are given away.
Maisie, I salute you : for your fortitude and your humanity. I hope my aging is as gracious. (But I doubt it!)