Follow by Email

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Catharine Eddowes

My web site describes me as...a little dark. And I don't see anything wrong in that. We all have some in us, even if its just occasional thoughts about subjects upon which we don't usually dwell, like death and other morbidity. Some, one in particular, I won't mention names, attempt to go through life permanently displaying the qualities of an exuberant eight year old which can be draining and false. And there are some, again, one comes to mind, who may as well be already dead, such is the amount of time he spends with them. Morbid much?
But on the whole, I think it is more life-giving to daily turn over part of ones thoughts to the deeper side of life if only for comparison's sake. I am in the process of reading about seven books at the moment, snatching parts of them at different times of the day and although life is not exactly what I wish for at the moment, if I re-read one particular extract from one particular book which contains a description of the possessions of one woman's life, then, for myself anyway, it thankfully puts my entire life in context and releases me from the ever-present self-guilt and recriminations.
This poor woman, Catharine Eddowes was 44 when she meet her terrible end, as the fifth victim of the infamous Jack the Ripper. And at her autopsy, the list of her sole possessions in life; all that she had garnered from her years of living were thus listed;

A large white handkerchief.
One blue striped bedticking pocket.
Two unbleached calico pockets.
A white cotton handkerchief.
Twelve pieces of white rag.
A piece of course linen.
A piece of blue and white shirting.
Two small bedticking bags.
Two short clay pipes.
One tin box containing tea.
One tin box containing sugar.
One piece of flannel.
Six pieces of soap.
A small tooth comb.
A white-handled table knife.
A metal tea spoon.
A red leather cigarette case with white metal fittings.
An empty tin match box.
A piece of red flannel containing pins and needles.
A ball of hemp.

It humbles me somewhat to think of the way I collect possessions and what I am currently worth. In essence, Catharine was absolutely no different to you or I. She had a head and a heart full of hopes and dreams. She must have felt that she belonged somewhere and that she had a past. I have no doubt at all that she dreamed of a better future. She was human and therefore must have. As we all do. Apart from the time difference of some 120 years, a time now of shadows, she could have been our own sister or mother. A best friend or a lover.
I had an occasion to bemoan myself recently for not becoming that which I wanted to become but then read that list again. I should imagine that wherever you are, if you look away from these words, the very first thing your eyes will alight upon would be worth many times what this unfortunate sad little woman managed to collect in her entire lifetime. Now that causes me to pause for thought. And then more importantly, allows me the time to feel that which offers me the best comfort; gratitude.

No comments: