Unburied Nuts from 17th November 2006: Goodnight, Mrs. Legatt

on Sunday, March 29, 2009

The "Unburied Nuts" series is an unashamed effort to recycle some of my earlier postings when I am too stressed out to create something new to post. This offering is certainly from the earliest period when the Lone Grey Squirrel was not so grey but going through a mid-life crisis anyway. I hope you like it.

As we travel through life, we pick up a lot of junk. Not surprising, I am a bit of a pack rat and will not allow things I collect to be put out for a yard sale without a fight. For me, these are more than just items, they are symbols of my life journey. More than things though, we each meet a whole host of people. Some have been a big influence on our lives while others less so but they all touched our lives and were part of the shaping of who we are and what we believe. Some of them taught us great life truths and yet others got us wondering about life.

Tonight, I find my mind traveling through time and space until I find myself sitting by the bedside of Ms. Legatt. My younger self was a thin insecure teenager who found himself thousands of kilometers away from home in a strange and cold place called Brighton, United Kingdom, so as to have the opportunity to study. Once a week, I took part as a volunteer in a community out reach project. My assignment was to visit shut-ins. These are elderly people who are pretty much bed-ridden or house bound. Food is sent to them by Meals-on-Wheels which are run by other volunteers and they get a visit from the community nurse a few times a week. Very often their only other visitors and social contact was with volunteers like myself.

Brighton Pavillion

The truth was that for many of the community volunteers, visiting shut-ins were the least desirable of assignments. There was always the smell of urine or worse. The rooms or apartments were generally unkept and you might be asked to clean mouldy dishes or throw out the rotting garbage. Many felt that the hour spent there was the most boring way to spend 60 minutes.

Not for me. I was able to ignore the lack of hygiene and cleanliness and perhaps I was also alone in a strange land, I was genuinely able to enjoy the fellowship and because of that I was able to learn quite a lot. So I spent many hours visiting and sharing a cup of tea and a cookie with Ms. Legatt at her bedside. Ms. Legatt was pretty much alone in the world. She had no close family. She was diabetic and bedridden with an amputated leg.

However, we made a connection and in her tales and stories, she was a young girl with the world at her feet. She was thrilled to learn that I was Malaysian. It seemed that she spent the best part of her life traveling in the Far East. She was adventurous for her time. She took on a job with the British Foreign Service and left the dreary British shores soon after the end of the Second World War aboard a warship. Her first port of call was in Singapore where she served in the British Administration and took part in the post war rebuilding. I know many British, like Ms. Legatt, were really carrying out their imperial and colonialist duties. Yet, I believe Malaysians inherited a relatively prosperous and peaceful country at independence and in part it was because of the services and sometimes sacrifice of these servants of the setting Empire. So in all sincerity, I wish to say thank you to all of them.

Ms. Legatt spoke of some girlfriends of like mind and spirit. They made Singapore their playground. They partied and attended all the social events. They rubbed shoulders with high society and my eyes opened wide at some of the adventures and hi-jinks that she related that she sweared involved the crown prince, heir to the Sultanate of Johor.

It was a colorful and exciting life. Ms. Legatt was one of the flowers that shone brightly at the twilight of the Empire in one of the most exotic parts of the world at that time. Somehow she never married, eventually came back to Britain and grew old alone. Somehow she was forgotten.

I remember Ms. Legatt tonight and wonder about my own life. How would I be remembered? All my memories, the victories I celebrate, my loves, my friends, my struggles, my fights, what would they mean when I am old. Who would remember? Who would care? What would my life really count for? Why am I pondering these things? Well, I am about the age where I am due to have a mid-life crisis and as one of my friends is prone to say, “it’s right on time.”

Seriously, I think it is good to take stock of our lives from time to time to see if the things that occupy us, whether it is our work, careers, hobbies, friends, dreams, problems really remain as important against the test of time. As for me, I think you lived a full life, Ms. Legatt and you contributed to shaping a great country. Many may have forgotten but I remember and I enjoyed tea, cookie and friendship. Good night, Ms. Legatt, wherever you are.


tsduff said...

That was a truly wonderful, though provoking post. As I sit here, pondering what you said about reflecting on one's own daily priorities against the test of time, I'm almost prone to go into my own full fledged panic about middle aged crisis. Having been out of a job 6 months now with no new leads in sight, I'm turning into a recluse, feeling my skills rust up and my rear end widen from sitting too much. I hope someone, somewhere will remember something fond about me when I'm dead and gone. Definitely food for thought.

Anonymous said...

It definitely makes snse to live life when you have it, and constantly re-assess about priorities,


I think you bring up a deep-seated commonality amongst all human beings: the fear of being forgotten.

I too wrote a post on this many moons ago. I think that as Christians we don't have to feel concerned or sad about this because we have become children of God. And He has promised to be with us always and to bring us to Himself when this life ends.

Imagine! A perfect life in a perfect body living a perfect life for all of eternity!! And all because God loves us and wants to be with us! So to me, it makes more sense to live for God because in the end, after everyone who ever knew us dies, God will still exist. He will remember us... forever.

Jo said...

Omigosh, what a beautiful post! Oh, yes, I wonder those things too.

I had the tune "Eleanor Rigby" going through my head the other day, and one of my greatest fears has always in becoming Eleanor Rigby.

I don't think you have any idea how much joy you brought old Ms. Legatt. You made her young again and took her back to where she had been happiest.

How wonderful...!

geewits said...

What a lovely story and now she will live on forever via the internet.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Sorry if I bummed you out. Hope things improve for you soon. But I have decided that a career is not as important as nurturing and caring for our cherished relationships.

well said.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

It is a great assurance to be able to trust our future to God. But even for believers, I think it is still possible to have regret. We might regret not having served Him better and not having lived an abundant life in His service.

Yes, Eleanor Rigby is an appropriate symbol of what I was trying to say.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

What a fascinating thought of "living on through the internet". It raises all sorts of interesting questions. For example, could we one day see internet archaeologist digging through the internet for historical artifacts?

lost said...

lovely post. i might b going 2 UK 2 study.Know it might be a bit lonely.
it is true from 40 years from now, what will become of each one of us?
May be shouldn't care abt it and just live the present

Janice Thomson said...

What a lovely tribute to someone who obviously had quite an effect on your life.

Anonymous said...

Yes, what will last. An article in a lexicon, a footnote in a lecture.

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