A small tribute to two women who were born a month apart, who each lived more than a hundred years, and died a month apart.
Miep, the person who aided Anne Frank and her family, and who died on January 11, a month short of her 101st birthday.
And Judy, my one hundred year old friend in Naples, Florida, who spent a big chunk of her life as a journalist—managing the trick of being both a lady and a ‘dame’ at a time when most women were trying to manage the trick of being June Cleaver.
After a heart attack in her nineties, Judy moved herself into a seniors’ residence and when, eventually, she found it too hard to walk, she accepted a wheelchair with a smile and a shrug, saying that if you lived long enough, chances were you’d eventually lose it “from either the neck up or the neck down.”
“I got lucky,” she said, like not walking was a gift.
She kept her eyesight and every one of her marbles right to the end and never lost her love of reading or telling a good story.
She didn’t have much to give, but always found something to send you home with: a stuffed toy she’d won at bingo, tic tacs, a lemon drop.
Eventually, she moved to a nursing home and practically ran her floor, keeping tabs on people, making sure others, younger but less able than she, got what they needed—the glass of water, the magazine, a hand to the loo—when they needed it. No doubt the staff thought she was a pain in the ass at times, but one they’d want around if it was their mother in the room next door.
Judy loved a dinner invitation and never said no to a couple fingers of bourbon.
She believed that people were essentially decent, that life, despite its madness, was good—and in Judy’s orbit, it was, and people were.
She died in her sleep last month, the day after her 101st birthday.
“I want to get on; I can’t imagine that I would have to lead the same sort of life as Mummy and Mrs. Van Daan and all the women who do their work and are then forgotten. I must have something besides a husband and children, something that I can devote myself to! I want to go on living even after my death! And therefore I am grateful to God for giving me this gift, this possibility of developing myself and of writing, of expressing all that is in me.”
(From—The Diary of a Young Girl, by Anne Frank)