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DEATH                                                           ALICE MAUD RICHARDS

Portsmouth 1962

I was in my first year of university when I heard that my grandmother had had a stroke and was in hospital.  I really can’t remember whether I was actually there and took leave, or whether it was holiday time, but I do remember going to visit her in hospital.  Apparently she had really not wanted to go to the hospital, saying something along the lines of, “you died in hospital”.  For whereas I am sure my grandmother had been ill occasionally in her life, generally speaking she was one of those people who never seemed to be ill.  So it was an awful shock for her.  And then they cut her lovely long hair, which distressed her.  Do they still do such insensitive things I wonder?


In spite of this, although frail, she seemed fairly chirpy and much like herself, so I went back to university, reassured.  But there was a subsequent heart attack and so on 1st April, 1962, in the Queen Alexandra Hospital in Cosham, she died.  April Fool’s Day I have just realised.  How awful.  There is no fooling with death.  And she probably died alone too - well alone in the sense that no family would have been there.  The death certificate says she died of “1a. Myocardial infarction b. Generalised atheroma II Anaemia, Cerebral thrombosis.”  I think the cerebral thrombosis is the stroke.  Myocardial infarction is a heart attack and generalised atheroma is thickening of the arteries.  So all pretty major, combining forces to deal a final blow.  I suppose at least it would have been relatively quick, and there was certainly no long drawn out suffering.  At least I hope so.


I did not go to the funeral - though my sister did.  We think my mother thought it more important that I be at university.  And because of this, I realise to my shame that I do not even know where she was buried - or more likely - cremated.  This is something I must rectify.  Apparently it was a Salvation Army funeral, complete with band, so with an air of festivity about it.  I think it proves that throughout her life, my grandmother had been a dedicated, if, retiring, follower of the Salvation Army creed.


Alice was 81 when she died, so a long, and I hope, happy life.  The war must have been supremely stressful, the long illness and subsequent death of her husband must have been a trial, but she was much loved and enjoyed the life-long support of her siblings and her children.  But it would have been a hard life.  She never had great wealth or prosperity, but always, at least to us, seemed happy and content.  In her eighty one years she saw major change.  When she was born women were wearing crinolines - when she died the mini-skirt was about to burst onto the scene.  In her lifetime she saw two major world wars, and the coming of cars, air travel, computers and the nuclear bomb, not to mention the National Health Service, votes for women and free education for all.  When stated like that it seems amazing that people can cope with such major change, but then I guess it all happens bit by bit and we don’t notice.


Did she ever have a holiday I wonder?  I don’t remember her having one, other than the visits to the grandchildren, but that wouldn’t have been a real holiday would it?  As a child, she no doubt had trips to the beach at Southsea, but holidays?  The concept was probably unknown for ordinary people back then, and then came all the children and no spare money, and then the war, and then grandmotherhood.   It isn’t fair is it?

The Queen Alexandra Hospital - now majorly rebuilt I believe.