I just read that the last known World War I veteran died Saturday, a mere two weeks from turning 111 years old. Her name was Florence Beatrice Patterson Green, and she joined the Women’s Royal Air Force in September 1918 at the age of 17, where she was assigned to work as a waitress in the officers’ mess.
I confess that as a scrapbooker, whenever I see headlines that the world has lost the last member of an era, I pause and wonder whether that person kept scrapbooks during his/her life or had a memory keeper in the family who took on the chronicler role. (Although I don’t know the answer to this question, the rest of my post is built around the idea that Florence may not have kept a journal or scrapbook.)
Of course, as she lived her life I’m sure Florence Green had no thought of being the last surviving anything. We don’t generally think about our lives that way, do we? We’re all just simple folk living life one day at a time. What’s noteworthy about that?
But a story like Florence’s reminds me that we aren’t usually afforded the vision to see extraordinary while we’re in it. There was Florence, living her 110-year life, every day forging a place for herself in the history books. But did she know it? Of course not. Should not knowing that have stopped her from thinking of her life as remarkable and capturing her memories of it for posterity? You know my answer.
I believe that scrapbookers tend to be the portion of our population who sees every life as exceptional, which is why we spend our time and money to collect family photos and stories and create scrapbooks. Seeing as this is neither an easy nor an inexpensive process, we must believe that to invest in it the way we do.
However, I don’t think the majority of people consider their lives outstanding. I have an 81-year-old aunt, my father’s older sister, who is a nightmare for me as a scrapper. Oh, I love Aunt Bubbles with all my heart. But just try to wrest a good story about her life from her! She thinks it’s all just too boring to capture. No, no, no! I try to make her see that none of the details are meaningless…that every person’s story is worth telling. And so far I have been unsuccessful at interviewing her, but I won’t stop trying.
What I hope more people will realize is that little stories are what make up a life. So a life worth living is a life worth memorializing, no matter whether it feels out of the ordinary every day. Today I am holding Florence Green in my heart as the last member of an event that changed our history. Her story reminds me again that we have the power to preserve the memories of people who will not always be. And it’s really the story of each one of our lives that changes history.