When I was a child visits to my maternal grandparents - Tom and Rose – were always a treat. Grandad had made the old Anderson bomb shelter at the bottom of the garden into a potting shed and beyond the back garden gate was a hedgerow-bordered lane that led to a corner shop, where penny lollies could be bought.
The garden was full of beautiful, well-tended flowers, tiny terraces and a well painted bench where granddad could sit and survey his small but perfectly formed kingdom.
Traditional tales fuelled my belief that there really were fairies at the bottom of the garden. Ice lollies tasted better in this garden in summer than anywhere else and in winter the snow was crunchiest here.
Whenever you walked into the kitchen, Walter, a huge tabby cat would feign his usual indifference to your arrival.
It was at this point that I usually glanced a little nervously to a small container on the kitchen windowsill. It was for grandad’s glass eye and I always felt relieved when I saw him and it was obvious the fake eye was in place.
At seven I wasn’t aware how granddad had lost his eye as it was not spoken of. It was not a taboo subject, it was simply that he had lost his eye so many years before. No one except grandma could remember him with two.
Married in 1917 in Hungerford, Grandma Rose’s home town, on their wedding day their car was pulled by local troops in khaki and about to leave for the Front. The next day my granddad went with them. The newly weds didn’t see each other again until over a year later in the eye hospital in Leeds.
Grandad lost his eye – on barbed wire – serving in Salonika (Greece).
Rose and Tom went on to have nine children, were married for 72 years, and died three weeks apart.
I have thought of him and my paternal grandfather Stanley, who served in France, many times this year as millions of us remember that devastating ‘War to end all wars’.
I imagine many of those men who survived never spoke of their time in the trenches or at sea. Sadly they didn’t live in an age of counselling or sharing.
I know I never heard my grandad say one word about the war - I can only begin to imagine what he saw and what feelings he had to deal with.
As devastating as the First World War was, there doesn’t need to be global conflict for people to experience tragedy and trauma. Millions of people still have to deal with depression, stress and loss on a daily basis.
Even if it isn’t obvious, even if your day isn’t going as well as you’d like, it’s likely that you’ll meet someone who is having a hard time.
A little kindness dealing with everyone means that you won’t miss the one person today who may really need it and the world 100 years on would really be a better place.
* Mel Hewitt, Community Fundraiser, St John’s Hospice, Doncaster