O Lord, a hundred years is a long time to have lived. A hundred years gives things significance, it turns experiences into history. I’m not a piece of history, Lord. I’ve lived a long life and hopefully a good one, but I wouldn’t call myself significant. Yes, I’ve done my best in my own small way, I’ve dealt with whatever you’ve thrown at me as well I could, but the fact is I’m not an exceptional person, just an old one. What have I done in my life? People would look at the obvious things: I’ve lost a husband, I’ve outlived both of my children; I’m the last of thirteen brothers and sisters. Those are the things about me that stick out, but they’re no more or less than what most people of my generation went through. There’s no real story or meaning to the events that have made up my life, Lord, they’re just things that happened to me. I’m a small woman, you know, and I don’t just mean that I’m short. I’ve never been one for the big things or the grand stage. I like to keep myself to myself.
Of course you know that I’m turning a hundred next week, don’t you? I can’t say that I’m looking forward to it; that’s why I’m bothering you with all this stuff at this late hour. I don’t like to moan, I’ve never had any truck with whingers, but the fact is that now I’m going to be a centurion, everyone wants to know my life story; they want to know about the world wars, about the roaring twenties, or about the swinging sixties. Quite frankly, it’s all getting to be rather annoying. I wasn’t aware of any roaring in the twenties, or of any swinging in the sixties. When people talk about the times I’ve lived in, I don’t recognise them, not the way my grandchildren and great grand children describe them anyway. When I tell them that I never cared much for Churchill, or that I though the Beatles were a bunch of unwashed ruffians, they look at me like I’m mad. Maybe I should just tell them what they want to hear?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m touched at the way my family’s been fawning over me. They’re a good bunch and I can tell how much my birthday means to them, but it’s just that…how can I put it? They seem to be making plans for what they think that I’d want to do for my birthday rather asking me about what I actually want. If I was going to do anything, I’d have a nice little do, maybe in the tearooms in town. I’d get my neighbours and relatives together, we’d have a nice cuppa and a slice of Dundee cake and I’d be back home for afternoon nap. That would be lovely. But Geoff, my grandson, he’s only gone and hired out the village hall for a party and invited half of Dartford to it. He’s even hired a jazz band. I don’t even like jazz. I like Vera Lynn, Perry Como and that lovely chap…what’s his name? Irish fella…Daniel O’Donell – that’s it. Always been a big fan of the Irish, me. Anyway, I’m rambling Lord. What I’m trying to say is that a big do is the last thing I want. I don’t want any fuss. I certainly don’t want to be paraded around like a museum piece, answering questions about the Charleston and bloody doodlebugs all night. I know old people are supposed to like rambling on about the past, but I’ve always been one for the present. I’m not boring or senile enough to want to rattle on all the time about the things that I did forty or fifty years ago.
You see, Lord, even though I lived through all this history, I don’t feel like its something that I belong to, at least not in the same way that I belonged to Arthur, my better half, or even to my job or my bridge club. People can go on about the depression, the world wars or rock n roll as much as they like, but those things just happened to be going on in the background while I was just getting on with my life, the same way that everyone else does. Like I said, I’m a small person, I’ve always liked the little things in life. All these big events don’t mean a lot to me. If I had to tell people about the things I remembered from the past, I’d tell them about the sharp sting of my knee I grazed in the playground,about the cold draught through the hole in my stocking I tore when I was walking with Arthur on the South Downs. I’d tell them about the soft glint of lamplight on a porter glass in the public bar, or the damp musty smell of old mortar in the church where I got married. I’d tell them about the crisp brown edges of the flowers that dried to dust on Arthur’s grave. Those are things that I remember, Lord. They might just seem like details, they might even seem boring, but they’re the moments that I’ve treasured for all these years. But people don’t want to hear about them. They pretend to listen and, when I’m done, they spring to life and ask me what the blitz was like, or if I knew anyone on the Titanic. That’s the kind of tripe I’ll be getting asked at my party come next Wednesday.
To be honest, Lord, I’m tired of talking about myself, but when you get to a hundred that’s all people want you to do. More than that, I’m just tired in general. My body’s not up to much these days. If I try to do a spot of gardening my back aches for hours, or if I try and watch the pools scores on the telly I can hardly make them out because my eyes are so bad. I know I’m getting on, but I really starting to feel, well, old for the first time. I’ve always liked to be active, whether that be hill walking, playing quoits or walking to the shops and, now that people are doing everything for me, I feel a bit like a spare part. I’m not complaining about the lot you’ve dealt me Lord, not for a second. I’ve never felt sorry for myself and I never will. I wouldn’t have lived this long if I didn’t know how to just carry on. I’m not complaining, but I do have a favour to ask you. It’s going to sound a bit odd and I’m not sure what you’ll make of it, but here goes:
I don’t want to be a hundred Lord. I don’t want that to be thing that people remember me for. Anyone can live for a long time; what I want to be remembered for is being a decent woman who did her best.
I don’t want a big fuss made about my birthday Lord. I don’t want to let people down either, but I certainly don’t want a huge to-do made about me.
I don’t want to talk about the past anymore Lord,at least not the past that people want me to talk about, whether I know anything about it or not.
I don’t want to struggle on any more, Lord. I don’t want to get any more frail than I already am. I want to keep my dignity. I certainly don’t want to get to the stage where someone’s wiping my backside for me and I’m eating through a tube.
So, what I want from you is this: I want you to take me away from all of this, gently and painlessly, in my sleep. I don’t mind when, as long as it’s some time between now and next Wednesday. I’m not afraid of death, Lord. You know that my faith is strong and I’m sure that I’ll end up in a good place when I’m gone. Now, I realise that what I’m asking you is a bit out of the ordinary and I’m sure that you have strong views on suicide, but what you need to remember that you’ll be taking my life, not me; I’m just asking you to do it for me. You might have your qualms about that, but the fact is that I’ve always done my best to live a good life and all the bad things that happened to me have never shaken my faith in you. I’ve never asked a thing of you up until now, so I hope, if you are the man I think you are, that you’ll take all that into consideration when you decide whether or not to do this. I’m not expecting an answer straight away; you can have a think about it if you like, but just remember that you’ll be doing an old lady a huge favour. I won’t trouble you any more, no doubt you’ve got other people to talk to, so I’ll speak to you later on. I hope you’ll find it in your heart to help me,