‘Al­ways look on the bright side’

CENTENARIA­N WHO SUR­VIVED SPAN­ISH FLU SPEND­ING COVID-19 CRI­SIS PLAY­ING SCRAB­BLE

Calgary Herald - - PANDEMIC - JOE O’CON­NOR

Lucy Jar­ratt al­ways wanted to be a doc­tor. But, as her mother would tell her — and this was in the 1930s — there was only go­ing to be one doc­tor in the fam­ily and that was her brother, Bobby. An­other brother, Manus, died in 1932 from tu­ber­cu­lo­sis, a hor­ri­ble tragedy, the mem­ory of which still moves Lucy to tears.

Her father, Pa­trick Hen­nessy, was a farmer. The fam­ily lived across the road from a Catholic Church and ceme­tery in Bathurst, N.B. Pa­trick dug graves for the vic­tims of the Span­ish flu pan­demic of 1918. His el­dest daugh­ter, Lucy, was born on June 29, 1917, a year be­fore the bug hit and a fact, on its face, that doesn’t seem re­mark­able un­til you con­sider that Lucy, at the ripe, old, won­der­fully-spir­ited age of 102, is now rid­ing out an­other global pan­demic in her bun­ga­low at the top of Hen­nessy Street near the homestead where she grew up.

Aside from tak­ing a pill a day for a thy­roid con­di­tion, be­ing hard of hear­ing and hav­ing trou­ble with her short-term mem­ory, Lucy re­mains re­mark­ably spry and fully en­gaged and she is un­fazed, ac­cord­ing to her daugh­ter, Me­lynda Jar­ratt, by the COVID-19 out­break.

“We are prob­a­bly more afraid of it than she is,” Jar­ratt says. “My mom was a med­i­cal sec­re­tary for 62 years and so she saw it all. Peo­ple dy­ing, and re­ceiv­ing ter­ri­ble di­ag­noses, but also the births and other joys in life.”

Jar­ratt and her sib­lings, David and Terri, be­gan car­ing for Lucy full time af­ter her reg­u­lar caregivers stopped com­ing to the house due to the virus. The ar­range­ment, while im­per­fect, keeps pro­duc­ing mem­o­rable mo­ments, of­ten around the Scrab­ble board. Lucy, for­ever com­pet­i­tive and with a keen mind, isn’t above cheat­ing to as­sure vic­tory.

“Now that we are all stuck in the house, Scrab­ble has be­come a daily com­pe­ti­tion,” Jar­ratt says, laugh­ing. “My mother takes it very se­ri­ously.” (Jar­ratt spoke on Lucy’s be­half). A few years back, Jar­ratt in­ter­viewed Lucy on cam­era, a time cap­sule, of sorts, in which she asked for her se­crets to a long life.

Lucy was born in the pre-an­tibi­otic age. Tu­ber­cu­lo­sis claimed her brother, but he wasn’t the only fam­ily ca­su­alty. Her younger sis­ter, Dorothy, died of whoop­ing cough. An­other sib­ling died from a con­cus­sion. Death, in

Lucy’s day, wasn’t as re­mote as it is to­day.

For her part, she never smoked, and she rarely drinks, save for a nip of Tia Maria, ev­ery now and again. Lucy’s motto, as all her chil­dren — she and her hus­band, Sid­ney, had nine — are aware, and which she con­tin­ues to es­pouse is: “Al­ways look on the bright side. Don’t spend time wor­ry­ing about what’s go­ing to hap­pen, since what will hap­pen, will hap­pen.”

In other words: don’t be afraid of life since loss, and joy, and hope, are all part of it. Bad times will give way to the good.

“It is my Mom’s credo,” Jar­ratt says.

That, and the fact she is dearly loved. When Lucy tires of beat­ing her chil­dren at Scrab­ble by any means nec­es­sary, she will ei­ther go for a drive with her son or re­tire to her bed­room to watch Bri­tish sit­coms. (She also watches the news, and reads the pa­per.) She eats por­ridge for break­fast, and ad­mits to a weak­ness for ice cream treats, es­pe­cially any­thing with caramel. Flow­ers de­light her, as does the PBS pro­gram, Call the Mid­wife, be­cause of the med­i­cal an­gle and her re­li­gious foun­da­tion.

“My Mom is a de­vout Catholic, but she rolls her eyes over the idea women can’t be priests,” Jar­ratt says.

Lately, Lucy has been watch­ing Mass for Shut-ins, among the long­est run­ning tele­vi­sion pro­grams in Canada. The nuns who live nearby can no longer pop around to give her com­mu­nion. Night­times, though, are es­pe­cially spe­cial, in these ex­tra­or­di­nary times. When Lucy heads to bed, her chil­dren tuck her in.

“The three of us will stand around my Mom, and she will look up at us with her gor­geous smile,” Jar­ratt says. “When she wakes up — she is still smil­ing. She is al­ways happy to see an­other day.”

FAM­ILY HAND­OUT PHO­TOS

Part of Lucy Jar­ratt’s so­cial dis­tanc­ing rou­tine in­volves beat­ing her chil­dren at Scrab­ble. Lucy is 102.

Lucy Jar­ratt, right, sur­vivor of the 1918 flu pan­demic, as a child, circa 1920.

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