Elizabeth Barraclough was my wife’s aunt. 24 hours ago that ‘was’ would have been an ‘is’.
Elizabeth was one of the most remarkable people I think I have ever met. For example, in the late fifties and early sixties she was a leading light in the computer department at Newcastle University – I know, a woman in computers in the fifties! – and was their first Director of Computing. There is a building named after her at the University, which shows how significant and influential a person she was.
After retiring she moved to Keswick where she lived for the last thirty years or so, completing I think two stints as Mayor. Passionate about the town, politics and the environment, she was a warden for the National Trust and spent much of her time walking the fells even into her late seventies. I think she was part mountain goat!
I once gave her a collection of my poetry and her response was all Elizabeth: “funny sort of poetry if it doesn’t rhyme”. She always gave it to you straight, no frills.
My wife said yesterday that “she’s always been there” – and now she isn’t. I find it hard to comprehend that I’ll never see her again, never enjoy her verbal jousting and intellectual challenge, never go on one of her walks again – which given they were more like route marches, I’m not sure I’ll miss that much!
We think some people are indestructible. We think we’re indestructible. And we’re not. Which makes it all the more important that we make the most of the time we have, with the people we have, doing the things we love.