Thursday, July 2, 2009

Three score years and ten

Meet Celia Taylor in her youth: my gorgeous mother. (Notice: I didn't say in her prime. That came later. As it does for us all.)

In this blurry photo she's probably 19 or 20, and it's around 1934. Glamorous even after climbing a mountain -- and obviously fit. Rebellious. She had a dark, sulky beauty when young, and men of all ages relished her company until she died. And she had six daughters of whom she was proud.

Celia was always adamant that three score years and ten was quite sufficient as a life span. She quoted the Bible in support.

"If I'm going gaga and I'm nothing but a burden," she told us occasionally, "Take me to a beautiful mountain, take me to a glacier, take me to the edge of a crevasse, then turn your back." Yeah, right. But she meant it! She was sufficiently realistic (or ethical) not to make us promise, which is just as well.

Fiercely independent, and passionate about the pleasures and powers of her life, Celia's worst fear was of being a burden. She positively wanted to die at 70, latest.

And so she did, on New Year's Day in her seventieth year. Some people can do that, I believe. Of course she had to work up to this death, by smoking (considered daring and glamorous when she was young) and getting a degenerative disease. You can't make a stroke happen out of the blue.

Well, that was strange even in those days. Today's 70 is yesterday's ... 50? Yet her mother and grandmother lived into their 80s, all guns roaring until quite near the end, I believe.

Regardless of logic, 70 was her deadline. Maybe I started this blog because next year I'll be 70 and I never felt less like dying.


  1. Yes and when she was dying, she didn't speak much other than to request water. But it was during or just after a family reunion which she couldn't attend. The remark I remember most was that she blurted out "Convenient funeral". Just her sense of humour. She was not a burden.

    And when the cremation occurred and we sent her off, a plane took off too.

  2. That was my sister Deirdre commenting about Celia's death. Local currencies is one of her nicknames.

    Comment from my sister Lesley: fyi richard reckons that your lovely photo of Celia on the mountain is taken from Avalanche Peak at Arthurs Pass. So she is sitting on Avalanche Peak and behind her is Mt Rolleston. We've been up there too, with our boys.