My oldest and wisest friend Joyce died at the age of 91 in October 2011. We’d know each other for 25 years, ever since I moved in to the flat above and she adopted me – well not literally, I think we adopted each other! I was a very busy advertising exec and she was a recently retired MD of a market research company. She had the finest brain, capable of knocking off the tough Guardian crossword every day and the most generous spirit, cooking for 10-12 of her friends on a regular basis. I was invited to these meals often as she knew I was a rubbish cook!
I lived above Joyce for nearly seven years and when my future husband Stephen arrived, he was brought into the family fold. Joyce was the baby of her family (sisters Esther & Vera still going strong) and she’d not had any children of her own so we filled that gap. It was the usual story, we took her for granted, got preoccupied with our own lives and then made it up with lavish lunches at our favourite restaurant, The Lime Tree. When Stephen died, I needed Joyce for her sage, practical advice as we had even more in common by this stage. Her husband had died when she was in her 40s too and we were both child free.
We got together most Saturday nights from then on to have dinner and enjoy each other’s company. She was becoming increasingly less mobile with multiple health conditions, but her mind was still razor sharp so we always had very lively conversations politics, religion family – nothing was off-limits! As my culinary skills are limited, we got accustomed to trying out whatever the M&S ‘Dine in for Two’ options were each week, with Joyce sitting in the doorway of her kitchen instructing me on oven temperatures and microwave minutes!
When Joyce’s health really went downhill, I visited her in hospital and brought her little requests. Anything from a crossword puzzle, sweets to toiletries and extra smalls! She was very sad that she’d not a child to call her own and I hope I was a good surrogate, holding her hand up to the end.
I still miss Joyce and think of her often, especially at the moment as her favourite flowers were daffodils and they’re in full bloom now. I know she and Stephen are giving me inspiration and guidance as we bring Evermore to life. I only wish they’d be here to cut the ribbon on the first village as we open our doors to other single older people.
So let’s make sure we take all opportunities to help others to Live Happy and Feel Good. I know I’ve been blessed with remarkable relationships and I’m sure I’ll have more in future.
Sara McKee, Founder and Director of Market Innovation
Follow Sara on Twitter @SaraMcKeeFRSA
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