On 11 November we visited a dear friend in hospital. It was her birthday: one that we don’t forget as poppies come out to remind us. Alzheimer’s is taking its toll but the conversations with her were, as always, bright, sharp and likely to end in laughter. Sadly, once our exchanges finished, a circuit would break and she couldn’t remember them. However, the familiar twinkle in her eyes led me to believe that although these moments of clarity and fun may not have found a berth in her memory, they were still nourishing her.
We took her in her wheelchair to the café. While she was relishing a cappuccino and a sticky bun, Big Ben sounded from the large TV on wall behind us. As everyone stood for the two-minute silence, I went to tell her not to worry about getting up but but she was already struggling painfully to her feet. She swayed a little but remained upright and unsupported until the Last Post sounded, no doubt remembering — with absolute clarity — her soldier husband and others .
This was her 91st birthday and, if the doctors are to be believed, she may not see her 92nd.
In a hospital canteen, on a grey Armistice Day, it was a privilege to witness what could have been a last salute from a brave and beautiful woman.