Tears for gran

Carol Martindale,

Added 23 January 2013

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It is with a heavy heart that I am writing this blog today. By this time, most Nation readers would have seen a picture of an elderly woman being lifted from her home in St Thomas where she was living in pure squalor. Tears came to my eyes when I saw this picture. It is a picture that should tug at everyone’s heart string. It is a picture of Estelle Butcher, who is 99 years old, being rescued from the filth that surrounded her. What was sad for me was that not only was it a picture of an old woman living in such conditions on the cusp of a major milestone when she turns 100 next month, but she was also someone I had met fleetingly before. Four years ago, I walked into Butcher’s home in Deans Village to interview her. At that time she was 96 years old. She was grinning from ear to ear because she was about to marry her sweetheart Navarro Bayley, who was 83. At that ripe old age, here was a woman who was as excited as any young bride to be walking up the aisle to say 'I do' to a man she had loved for 30 years. During that interview, the couple professed their love for each other and was equally demonstrative with that love, hugging and touching each other as they spoke of their life together. All this was captured on film by Nation photographer Sandy Pitt. Bayley vowed to take care of his 'lover girl' and she was only too happy to do the same with him. At the time, Bayley, a one-time seaman and quartermaster who worked on the Geest Line and the Harrison Line, said he cooked, washed and even bathed his partner, when she is sick. He said: “Of course, I have to take care of my lover girl. And she takes care of me, her lover-boy.” Butcher, whom I remember to be a lot more reserved than her husband-to-be, said: “He is a good man. A loving man.” So imagine my shock yesterday when a fellow editor asked me to look at the pictures of the unsanitary conditions this old lady was living in. I immediately recognized her to be the same woman I had interviewed not so many years ago. My heart ached, my stomach churned and tears welled in my eyes. How could someone be so cruel to allow another to exist in this state? How could this be happening on the brink of this woman’s 100th year? The picture that tugged at my heart the most was not the one of her being lifted from the putrid smelling house that was to be her haven, but the one of her sitting on the ground surrounded by the mess.  This could be anyone's grandmother, mother, aunt or great aunt. Thankfully, this elderly woman was rescued. Some of our online readers are today debating issues on our Facebook page and our website, like why was Butcher lifted from the house in what appears to be a sheet? Thankfully, one reader, who said he was an emergency medical technician explained that sometimes a gurney does not work in every situation, especially when going around corners, or negotiating close quarters. For me, this was not an issue. I was just happy she was taken from that horrible place. Others took issue with family members, questioning where they were when all this was going on. I am not even going to delve into that issue, except to say I know that some relatives tried to reach out and help. Butcher’s grandson himself confirmed this in the story. But, let’s not get distracted by the real issue here. This is an old lady who is part of an esteemed group we call the elderly in society who deserve to be treated with respect. They are in their twilight years and should be living out the rest of their lives in comfort. It is through the blood, sweat and tears, as well as sacrifices of the elderly, that many of us are where we are today. What a sad day this is. Let’s celebrate, respect and cherish the elderly in society. They deserve it. Carol Martindale is the Nation’s Online Editor carolmartindale@nationnews.com

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