Memories of a Free Spirit

Yesterday, along with her family and other friends, I said goodbye to someone who, everyone referred to as, a free spirit. A much overused phrase but one that, in this case, was accurate. Moreover, someone who was the epitome of those heady, colourful, creative times that were the 1960’s.

Now, I have to admit to not having seen Anne for quite some time since we first met.  She was then going out with one of my oldest friends, eventually marrying him. Soon after, I moved to Yorkshire and her and Bob emigrated to Australia. Given what I knew of them both and the culture that I thought they were moving to at the time, I wasn’t too surprised when they moved back a few years later. By this time, they had their first child, Matthew, followed, two years afterwards, by Toby. Unfortunately, Bob and Anne later divorced and, among other things, Anne went back to university. Bob and I have remained good friends, but the divorce took Anne in other directions, just as mine had done for me. In her case pursuing her dreams of travel; mostly as a single woman on her own. Now that’s real freedom of spirit for you.

Well, it wasn’t until a few years ago that, at a party, we met up again and it was as if it was yesterday. We chatted and I was reminded of older and more caring times. Little did I realise then that that would be the last time that I would see her. Well, unfortunately, a few weeks ago, Anne had a heart attack and the flame that was that that free spirit was extinguished.

So, yesterday, to the sound of Van Morrison, we entered the chapel in Richmond, to be followed by a plain cardboard coffin, to pay our respects.  The fragility of the coffin along with its simple rope fastening, in stark contrast to the usual sealed, heavy, polished wood casket. Somehow it made Anne seem part of the celebration of her life instead of being an absent friend. It was as if you could have reached out and touched her. To the accompaniment of lightning and loud cracks of thunder, I learnt things I hadn’t previously known, all of which confirmed the memories of her that I’d had. The strains of Tom Waits followed, as did, inevitably perhaps, “The Times They Are a Changing” from the inimitable Robert Zimmerman. Unique music for a unique person.

So this is a sad goodbye to a free spirit and the embodiment of those times that Joan Bakewell recently described as “a golden age, the likes of which we were unlikely to ever see again”. Sadly, true. So, thanks, Anne, for helping to keep them alive.

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