Meath woman who lived through Spanish flu offers message of hope on her 107th birthday

Nancy Stewart has seen a lot in her 107 years, "But I reach out to you in this letter to offer you hope, faith and belief that everything will be okay in the end."


For many of us, the coronavirus pandemic is the strangest time we have ever lived through. We talk about these "unprecedented times", and it can certainly feel that way. However, Meath woman Nancy Stewart lived through the Spanish flu pandemic, and offered a message of hope for us all on her 107th birthday.

Born in 1913, Nancy was a child during the pandemic of 1918-20, which saw around 20,000 people die in Ireland. As her family gathered last week to celebrate her birthday, Nancy recorded a message with her granddaughter, Louise, to reassure people that these hard times do pass.

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"I write to you today to send you my love and to offer you my prayers. We are in a very difficult time at the moment in our country, in our lives and in our world. But I reach out to you in this letter to offer you hope, faith and belief that everything will be okay in the end."

She has faced no shortage of personal tragedy in her long life, explaining that she lost her husband in a car crash in 1989, one of her twin daughters, Margaret, to motor neurone disease to 2007, and the other, Anne, in 2010, from the utter heartbreak of losing her sister.

Nancy says she has lost all her friends throughout the years, which comes from living so long, but she has three daughters and one son, as well as 84 grandchildren, great grandchildren, and great great grandchildren.

"Like everything I've been through since the day I was born in 1913, no matter how bad things have got, I'm the living proof that we can survive and in years to come, this will just be a distant memory."

Nancy's family had treated her to a particularly elaborate cake for the occasion, depicting her sitting beside her Aga. She says in her letter that she, like everyone, found lockdown tough, but spent it with her granddaughter, Louise. "We drink tea. We say prayers. We bake. We laugh. We make phone calls."

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She says she has even learnt how to video call friends and family, and urges anyone who is feeling low to try and call someone, or go out for a walk. She also asks people to look out for each other. "We must mind ourselves, but we must also mind all those around us. Look up and smile, even if you have your mask on. Your eyes will smile, and that might be all someone needs to keep going."


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