Vera Lynn died on Thursday and with her something of England died too. She was 103 years old. Significantly, her name, Vera, meant truth.
She was just a singer but her voice was the very soundtrack of Britain's fightback in World War II. She sang for the troops and even flew over to Burma to provide a much needed lift for military personnel sent there to push back against the Japanese.
At my mother's funeral service at The East Riding Crematorium in September 2007, the last sound we heard was Vera Lynn singing "The White Cliffs of Dover". It was a special song for my mother and father for they were both in The Royal Air Force during World War II and the "bluebirds" referred to in the song anticipated returning aircraft when the war was finally over.
I remember sitting there in the crematorium, looking up at a beautiful stained glass window through which sunlight streamed and listening in silence to:-
There'll be bluebirds over
The white cliffs of Dover
Just you wait and see
Mum and Vera. They were of the same generation and many times I recall my mother singing that very song as she beat the Yorkshire pudding mixture in our kitchen or ironed her sons' shirts. For her it would have brought back memories of fliers she knew who had died and of a terrible war that wracked the entire planet like a coronavirus pandemic.
Vera was an ordinary girl from an ordinary home in East London. Her father was a plumber and her mother was a dressmaker. That was part of her appeal and to some extent explains her ability to communicate with ordinary men and women caught up in a war that was not of their making.
It is funny that when old people die, what we mostly remember is how they looked just before they arrived at death's dark door. I think it would often be far more appropriate to remember those people as they were in their prime. See Vera Lynn's signed postcard image at the top of this post. No doubt she signed it in the very middle of that terrible war when she was the nation's sweetheart.
And so we bid farewell Vera. As your song says, "Peace ever after". Let's hope so.