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Auntie Mabel's Legacy - 15th November 2017


Auntie Mabel was something of an inspiration to me when I was younger. She was a talented woman and I now have one of her paintings in my home. It serves as a reminder of how her actions continue to influence me long after her death.



Auntie Mabel was in fact my dad's aunt; so my great-aunt. She was widowed young and subsequently set up home with one of her unmarried sisters, Auntie Bertha. I have fond memories of visits during half-term to see them in their bungalow at Gorleston-on-sea, near Great Yarmouth. 


In her old age Auntie Mabel remained sufficiently sharp to beat everyone at Scrabble, sometimes with multiple seven letter words. 


Her sister, my lovely Auntie Bertha was not so fortunate. She suffered several strokes and she died leaving Auntie Mabel alone in the bungalow. 


I realise now how we all have certain expectations of people, especially of the elderly. I think it was generally assumed that Auntie Mabel would continue to live alone until her own health forced a move into care, or until her death. We were all in for something of a surprise!


In her youth Auntie Mabel and another of her sisters had accompanied their father out to South Africa. He had some grand scheme to get rich quick, I think, and it backfired, but that's another story. Of course Auntie Mabel made lots of friends in South Africa and over the years she had kept in touch and gone back there for visits.


What a shocker!


Following Auntie Bertha's death Auntie Mabel announced she was selling up and moving back to South Africa to join a friend who lived in an old people's village. Even now I can remember the look on my mother's face. One of sheer disbelief!

On our final visit to see Auntie Mabel I remember her explaining that she wanted to give away most of her possessions. She wouldn't be needing them at the old people's village. She seemed very happy about it all and asked both my parents if there was anything they would like. My dad chose this picture of a cottage in Lavenham, Suffolk, painted by Auntie Mabel herself. My mum chose a beautiful vase. 


I now have this painting and my sister has the vase. I like the painting, it is well executed; but primarily I have it as a reminder of the woman who painted it. 

The legacy - more than the painting


The day my parents drove us home with the painting and the vase in the car remains a vivid memory. It was the day I realised that possessions can come and go, they are not responsible for our happiness. Also, that sometimes there is a time for letting go and that letting go can be the gateway to both joy and freedom.




Keywords: declutter, death, old age, downsizing


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