I was only six years old, in the days when children could run down the road to play with a friend. I was returning home from such a visit when I saw a lady lying in one of the neighbouring gardens. She was lying on the path and I recognized her as the old lady who worked in the grocer's shop in the High Street.
Her basket was turned over on its side and the unwrapped crusty loaves were scattered all around her. She had been delivering bread as she always did.
I ran up the path & gently shook the lady's arm. "Excuse me, are you alright?" I asked her. Even at that age I knew she was not alright as she was not responding and there was a rattling sound coming out of her throat.
I ran home as fast as I could and told my mum, who got a blanket and cushion and then she hurriedly took me next door and left me with Mrs Lewis and off she went to try to help the old lady as best she could. The nearest pay phone was in High Street at least five minutes away. No one had phones in those days unless you had a shop or some other business. Doctors were usually called out in these circumstances.
I was very upset that my mother had left me with Mrs Lewis, after all I had been first on the scene and now I was being treated like a baby.
When my mum returned and took me home, where my brother was still sleeping in his cot, she told me that a neighbour had got a doctor, but that the lady had died.
This was the first experience that I had of death, and it played on my mind for a long time and started me thinking of my own mortality and that of the people who were closest to me. When I think of my oldest grand daughter being only a little younger than I was, I wonder what she would have done. Of course this would never have happened today, as children are accompanied every where by grown ups.
I worried about death for a long time after that incident. Not surprising really.
How times have changed everywhere! When I was a child I was allowed to go almost anywhere alone as long as I told mother where before I left. And on our own block ("terrace" in Britain?) I was allowed complete freedom.
The first experience with death is indeed sobering.
I was wondering if life changed elsewhere in the world or just here in the US. When I was a kid I was able to go everywhere at almost anytime as long as it was daylight. But now as a Mom my kids even at 13 and 15 get dropped off and picked up at the bus stop. I am aware of 2 sex offenders in the neighborhood. And I am a firm believer that even though not registered there are at least 1 in every neighborhood in the world. I never came upon a woman who has passed. But when I was a kid I found our baby-sitter passed out drunk on the neighbors floor. I thought she was totally out until I drew my foot back to kick her and she gurgled I better not dare. Of course I was mortified for getting busted and ran off. Later she was fired.
I'm not surprised it effected you so much.
My children are lucky, we live in a quiet road with a cul-de-sac at one end and they do play out most afternoons when the weather is nice. There are another 2 families in the street and they are usually all out together. I do worry but I know it's good for them to be out and often they drift in to each others back garden and they know not to go further than the nit childrens house!
PS we had OFSTEAD today!!
Granny Smith..... I don't suppose it makes much difference which country we live in, things have changed since we older ones roamed the streets as children.
Mignon........... There must have been sex offenders then. Things weren't publicized then like they are today. There were some 'flashers" when I was older come to think of it.
Suburbia .... good for you letting your children out to play for a bit. I'm sure you are doing the right thing. Different in a city street with strangers passing by.
OFSTED is scary. During the visits, extra helpers get sent in & everything is completely different from normal. I think they should just arrive unannounced!
That is such a young age to have to deal with something like that. I am in my twenties and I swear (touchwood) if something as awful as that happened to me even tomorrow I'd struggle to cope. At least that poor lady had you there...
I led a sheltered life. I remember my grandfather dying when I was 4, but I wasn't with him when he died. I remember aunts and uncles dying, again I wasn't there. We lived 5 states away. The lady across the street died. My mom found her. She died with a dustcloth in her hand (NOT the way I want to go out!). The first person I saw die was my grandmother in 1986. I was privileged enough to be with her as she passed.
I don't know how I would have handled it as a child, but I suspect I would have been afraid of death for a long time, as you were. It is an amazing thing to witness, but it makes you think of your own mortality. There is a grace to it that is indescribable, though, at least in my experience.
Peace - D
At least your quick thinking brought her the care that all people crave - and your action meant that she did not die alone.
Girl with a mask...... I don't know how long she had been there. She was unconscious when I got to her.
Momma ...... It's not really the type of thing that a child should see. However I was more upset at the time by being dumped with Mrs Lewis!
David ....... If she was aware, that is.
What a thoughtful post - I worry about it too. I am 52 and I have never seen a dead person - that worries me as well as it will be a big shock when it happens I guess!!!
I'm like a younger Jules (!) and lucky enough not to have witnessed death at such close quarters (apart from witnessing a couple of car accidents which were so sudden as to be out of the contemplative run of things) no wonder you remember it.
Children did have more freedom when I was young. But now, if that happened, with mobile phones and paramedics, the old lady might have lived. Just a thought. Flick x
Jules ........ what a lovely photo of you! Can't believe you're 52! As regards dead people.... obviously I was with my Mum & Dad when & after they died.But the worry of death left me by the time I was 10yrs.
Milla ....... yes it is as clear today as it was on the day. Forever etched in my brain.
Flick....... yes..... she probably would have but 50 odd years ago, there were not intensive care units and resuscitation units. people lived or they died.
Funny how something so natural as death has such a profound effect upon us - scaring us - haunting us.....the fear of the unknown I guess. I know I was fascinated with finding the morgue when I was on the psyche ward - yet I sure didn't want to go in and look at the bodies.
At that young age you must have looked at everything in a different light afterwards. From bugs to people to pets. And it has probably stuck with you because of being so young.
I remember we had to go in when the streetlights came on....remember that?
mignon - I think its changed the world over, I know if has here in England..... I do/did try as best I could/can to give me lads as much freedom as possible but it still was not the same as when I was growing up........ we would go out early in the morning at the weekend and not go home til teatime... and no one would check up on us or even know what we had been up to......
life, is just different now, and I dont really know if its for the best.......
No wonder that left such a lasting impression on you. At that young age (any age really) something like that has a huge impact on you!
I did not have to deal with someone close to me dying until I was in my late 20's. My children, have had to deal with so much loss, at such young ages (Grandparents (2), an aunt, an uncle) and it has definately impacted them. I put them in grief counseling and it helped, but the theme of loss/death/mortality is still very present in their minds.
I bet you can still picture that incident like it was yesterday. So sad!
You're right Maggie. Unannounced would be so much better
My grandmother dies when I was about 10 years old ... that was my first experience of death ... the memory of 'the occasion' stays with me even now .....
I can remember, as a very young girl, being afraid of a neighbour, simply because she was old and wizened. I think I would have been affected for life, if I had come across the poor woman in her death throes. It must have been quite shocking and frightening for you. Not a pleasant thing for anyone to come across, really, but worse still for a 6 year old.
The first time I contemplated death, I was seven years old and my sister had just been born and my great grandmother died. I was not allowed to go to the funeral and I was rather upset about this as I wanted to have a good old bit of grief about her, because I felt entitled to it, and my mother said I shouldn't make such a big deal out of it.
It was my last chance until my grandfather died when I was 17 and by then it lost it's other world feeling and it was only a very sad event at which I could not cry properly.
Since then I am afraid I have encountered death more often and somehow have had to make my peace with it.
aims.... when you are children there is a sort of feeling that we are so important that we are immortal!
I wonder what the fascination of the morgue was when you were in the hospital?
marmitetoasty.......we were allowed out early morning & we just came home when we were hungry. No one knew what we were up to. We survived the "neglect" as it would be called now!
eileen ....... I think by the teens most young adults lose some one or other.
suburbia.. I definitly agree that OFSTED should just turn up! You obviously work in a school?!
omykiss .... a young age to have to face death, aged 10..
mean mom ........ weren't we terrible with old people when we were kids? Thinking they were witches etc.
Irene............ you have faced death....certainly.
I'll never forget as a nine year old, walking home early one morning with my big sister. We had been staying at a neighbour's house across the road. A woman was screaming and wailing out of her window quite alarmingly. My sister and I felt quite scared and walked faster to get home. Later, my Mother told us that the woman had lost her baby boy to cot death. I can still see her face and hear her cries as if it was yesterday - it has never left me and it troubled me a lot as a young girl.
Onto happier subjects; I am very lucky to be able to give my five year old son a fair amount of freedom. We live in splendid rural isolation - I worry more about snakes, bears and wild boars.
How sad for you. I'm so very sorry that you had to see that lady die. And hopefully your grand daughter will never have to see something lik that...... ever.
That must have been terribly frightening for you. How brave to not just run away and say nothing. I like what David said - thanks to you, she was not alone as her life was ending.
Mya, Jules & carolyn.......... thanks for your kind comments!
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