Captain Sir Tom Moore (1920 – 2021)
It was always in the back of my mind, the dread of his passing. Inevitable. He was 100 years old – wasn’t he just! From another time; a better time. Oh, yes, there was war and there was hardship but there, too, was pride, great courage, comradeship and family. There were values. Captain Tom embodied them all and, now, he is gone. It’s as though we are, once more, without an anchor. Cast adrift in the struggle for survival in an increasingly egocentric world, he is no longer here as a reminder of the good. Our beacon of hope is gone and the incessant rain and darkness are a metaphor of an all-enveloping mood. The country for which he fought so bravely, and of which he was so proud, is weeping.
How can someone one never met, never knew, incite such emotion? Simple, really. Captain Tom represented that which is sorely missing in our lives. Possessing of a vitality which belied his years, his sense of fun was infectious and that twinkle! He was the nation’s grandfather; a grandfather who had fought in the Second World War to secure our freedom with a courage and bravery which was second nature to his generation. In his eyes, he had done nothing out of the ordinary; he played it down, always keen to emphasise that he was, merely, one of many, fighting alongside his comrades. Humble to the end but proud and deservedly so. To whom do we look for these qualities now?
That generation, that proud generation, have – or had – so much to offer; so much that we took for granted, too busy leading our, largely, trivial lives. So many languishing in care homes, separated from their families; so many lonely and forgotten – and that was before this pandemic! Pop spent the last three miserable years of his life in one and I was powerless to do anything about it. Forever his idea of hell, ironically, only years before he had confided in me that his greatest regret was having Grandpa, his father, go into a home for what became the last year of his life. He spiralled quickly and gave up. Now, I, too, shall, carry that guilt for all time, regardless that I had no part in its execution. Pop deserved so much more – they, all, do! I remember on one occasion, when Becca, Manny and I were visiting Pop/Bapa, we had to wait outside the lounge area and both Manny and Becca were beckoned in by George! A lovely old chap who was desperate for company and to chat. The care home staff were, openly, unimpressed … I vowed that, when Pop was no longer with us, I would go back and ask if I could offer my time just to visit and chat to those, like George, who have so much to give and from whom we can learn so much. I never did. I hate everything about that care home and, even now, driving up that road is painful. What is wrong with this world? In the last year, the reaction to COVID – and its subsequent mishandling – has demonstrated our abysmal disregard for the elderly. Dispensable, they constitute the largest figure in the death statistics as the infected were off-loaded from hospitals into care homes and inmates were made to sign away their lives in DNAR mandates. Captain Tom? He could have been one of them but for the grace of God and his family …
Family. I remember watching Captain Tom on Piers Morgan’s Life Stories. Always immaculately turned out, he was in his tie and blazer and so proud! That was his generation. Pop was the same. Jacket and tie. Proud … I have never seen Piers Morgan so humbled. His respect for his guest, tangible. It was lovely. However, as I watched – with the tears tripping me – it was Captain Tom reflecting on his happiest day which, truly, hit home: the day he went to live with his daughter, Hannah, and her family. You see, Captain Tom may have been the Super Hero but his daughter, her husband and grandchildren were his cape! They were the reason for his vitality, his zest for life; they were his strength. Yes, they loved him but, more than that, they respected him and made him feel needed. Family. He may be gone but he died knowing how much he was loved and, boy, did he do it all! Right now, their grief must be all-consuming, but it will ease as they carry, forever in their hearts, the memory of a father, a grandfather, for whom they could have done nothing more. I would give anything to feel that way …
So it is that Captain Tom touched the nerve of a country. Everybody’s father, everybody’s grandfather, did he represent a manifestation of guilt? Yes, he was special; he was unique; he was a wonderful character but how many of his like are dead and gone having spent their last years as a statistic in a care home? I abhor care homes. I abhor what we have become. Family? Well, that has all but gone but, perhaps, the dismantling began when life downgraded the value of the elderly. One need only look to Africa, to the Native Americans, the Aborigines, the Italians, for goodness sake! In all cases, their elders are revered. To our own detriment, we have got it so wrong. We need, desperately, to learn from Captain Tom and to understand why we, as a country, took him to our hearts. Now, that would, truly, be a wonderful legacy for mankind.
My favourite, favourite author, Alexandra Fuller, believes that we, all, exist, trapped in different stages of grief. She is right; so perceptive. I understand. Pop died in 2018, a miserable end for a proud man who had achieved so much – and given so much. I miss him every day. He is the Voice in My Head and shall remain so forever more. Captain Sir Tom Moore was seven years older than Pop. From the same generation, though, he had the same values and reminded me so much of my father. Whenever I saw him on television, he made me smile. The eyes, the twinkle, the sense of humour, the look … he was Pop. When he died on Tuesday, it took me straight back to October 16th, 2018, all over again. I am still grieving. I suspect I always will be. In his obituary, Captain Tom is quoted as saying he – aged 100, let’s not forget – still missed his mother, his father and his grandfather, every day. He will be with them, now. Rest in peace, Captain Sir Tom Moore. A true hero, a true gentleman and a lovely, lovely human being who reminded us of everything we so, carelessly, took for granted – and, subsequently, lost.
‘I always liked western films because the good one always wins … I think goodies should always win.’
Captain Sir Tom Moore
Me, too! Somehow, I think you did …
This is Trish, signing off.