Image taken with thanks from the memorial ceremony

I attended a special ceremony a couple of days ago. A memorial for my dear friend Lynn Ruth Miller who died in the summer. A force of nature, singing and performing to the end, Lynn Ruth was a survivor, a battler and an inspiration. A difficult childhood, two marriages which were more to do with meeting expectations than anything else, eating disorders, and a family from which she felt ostracised, all failed to quench her spirit.

I love the story of how she got into stand up, as she relayed it to me on several occasions. As a journalist she signed up for a course which mad promises about teaching stand up in a very short time. She thought the claims were ludicrous and intended to write an exposé. To her surprise, she took to it like a duck to water. She could make people laugh. So her career as a stand up started at around 70. She moved to the UK, added burlesque a few years later and became a fixture on the Fringe circuit.

In the process she created a community of friends. She had a knack for encouraging talent and bringing out the gifts in her friends. She was unfailingly encouraging of my writing, always ready to challenge, always ready to push for more. My novel would not have seen the light of day without her. And so many ideas were nurtured by the discussions and debates we had on philosophy, religion, the second half of life, and so much more.

There was a lot of talent on show at the ceremony. Singers, musicians, stand ups, people whose lives she had touched, all curated by Sarah Louise Young and friends, to whom we all owe a debt of gratitude. Like many of those on stage, I met her in Edinburgh and saw her perform there and in Brighton on numerous occasions. My play The Door was at the Gilded Balloon and she came to see it, demanded to meet the writer, insisted the whole team went to her show later the same day and started a real friendship in which curiosity, argument, debate and laughter were key components.

So, apart from the memories of an old friend, where is this going? Thinking about the last few years (we met in 2010) I was left with a sense of what I’d learnt from Lynn Ruth and what I needed to set down. Lots of things, but these few will do:

  • Age means nothing – especially if we stay open and curious
  • Later life can be a very creative, enriching, and effective time
  • Often, even when we feel we can’t, we can take control and set the agenda
  • We can flourish when we seek to fulfil our potential
  • There’s something very rewarding in seeing and encouraging the potential in those around us
  • There’s always room for laughter

There’s a Jewish saying which was quoted at the ceremony which goes ‘May her memory be a blessing’. It will be.

Tony Earnshaw

Comments are closed.