Harold and Gladys

June_2008_file0001I first saw this picture about a week ago. I cannot stop looking at it despite the sense of melancholy it keeps invoking in me.

The picture is of Gladys Keighley and Harold Bradley. It was taken somewhere in England, some time in the 1930’s.

I am drawn to the happiness of youth that shines in their faces. I think they are beautiful.

I knew Gladys and Harold — they would later marry and have a daughter, my mum — but my own memory of them sits uneasily with this picture. My last memory of Grandpa was of a sad old man whose brain had been wrecked by a stroke. Grandma died a few years ago, deaf, blind, and skeletal.

There are happy memories too. Grandpa’s Boxing Day quizzes and my first trip to the cricket ground. Conversations about Wuthering Heights with Grandma in her front room overlooking Worcester Cathedral (Ma was originally from the Yorkshire moors).

Pa was a teacher and Ma a writer. I think that some of my passion for each discipline is my grandparents’ inheritance to me. I can also credit Pa for an early interest in the Old Testament. One of the answers to his quizzes was “Ur of the Chaldees,” a place I forever hear spoken in my head in his grizzly baritone.

But mostly I am sad. I did not know Harold and Gladys. I did not know their life and their love. I did not know the dreams of their youth. I wish I did. To me, Pa and Ma were shells of earlier selves that grew paler as the years went by. My children will experience this of my beloved parents; their children will experience this of me.

I harbour one flickering hope and it is in a resurrection — not into the cosmic One or the indivisible body of God — but of individual souls who will be as they once were, Harold and Gladys, young, happy, vibrant, intelligent, in love.


  1. Chris P. says:

    “My last memory of Grandpa was of a sad old man whose brain had been wrecked by a stroke. Grandma died a few years ago, deaf, blind, and skeletal.”

    It is amazing the amount of hope that the resurrection brings to us. That, though towards the end of there lives they were sick, and ill, they will once again be whole, healthy, and as you put it “young, happy, vibrant, in love.”

    The resurrection as meant more to me as I have grown older. I am still, young, but I do not feel it. Right off my mission I was diagnosed with two illnesses that will plague me the rest of my life. They cause me more pain then I had ever experienced. My father, has been ill, close to death, and is still not free of the torment that the disease brings, as it could come back at any time. My wife, also has struggles with an auto immune disease. To think that soon we will be free of these things is such a blessing.

    This Comment is not to provoke a feeling of sorriness from the reader towards me or my family but to simply point out how amazing the resurrection is.

    My heart goes out to Harold and Gladys.

  2. I know that life continues after death, and that individuals remain individuals, only freed from the weaknesses of the body, until the spirit and body are rejoined in perfection. Most people would think I was nuts if they knew how often I remembered someone who has died and wondered what they were doing at that very moment, because I know they are somewhere, doing something, and are themselves, their real selves.

    Today would be my father’s 90th birthday. One of my first thoughts this morning was wondering if my grandmother was thinking of that anniversary, as I looked at her picture on my wall, the young, dark-haired, mother-to-be that I didn’t know.

  3. Steve Evans says:

    Kudos Ronan for this. Mormonism’s prospect of an individual resurrection is something that holds real promise.

  4. Ronan,

    Thank you for the fresh perspective. When I look at the ghosts in my parents’ scrapbooks and think of my crotchety and ailing grandparents that I did briefly know, I never think of their youth, hopes, loves or passions. Neither side of my family was much into recording such things. Reading your take, though, makes me want to now dig into their lives and get to know them as they were.

  5. How joyous it will be! I often look at pictures like these and daydream about the feelings and foibles of youth in another era. Thanks for sharing Harold and Gladys with us.

  6. I love how photographs can capture such happy moments. Thanks for posting this, Ronan. I have a photo of my grandparents together when they were a young married couple. I’ve often wondered how happy they were together back then. I get the feeling that they may have had a difficult time of it for some years. But when I knew them they were old and sweet and very cemented together.

  7. …but of individual souls who will be as they once were, Harold and Gladys, young, happy, vibrant, intelligent, in love.

    This is my fondest hope, as well, Ronan. Although, mine are named Kathryn and Jack.

  8. Thanks, Ronan. This says what I feel so well.

  9. I appreciate this post. I was reading this morning in the scriptures how quickly our lives go by. It caused me to also reflect on death. I too am glad for the faith I have that our souls are individual and that we can see our loved ones after we die.

  10. Norbert says:

    Thanks for these thoughts. My parents are visiting us now, and I have been struggling with how different they are now compared to when I and they were younger, wishing my wife and kids had known them then. A great point.

    Thinking about the photograph: After my grandmother died, we found a picture of her in an all-girl jazz band from the early 1930s, looking pretty, um, saucy. Nobody had known about it, and it makes me itch to know her again after this life.

  11. Amen,

  12. I often wonder how this will be in 50 years when rather than having one or two pictures (like most of us have of our grandparents), people will have hours of home videos of their grandparents and great-grandparents. It would be really cool if I could watch home videos of my great grandparents raising their kids. It’s odd to think my great grandchildren might do exactly that.

  13. Jacqueline says:


    You have me in floods of tears…beautifully written and yes,i wish i would have known them then.I am a little older but my memories of Gladys and Harold are still so fresh.

    Grandma’s gravy,the back bedroom looking over the cricket ground,all her china cats,the day Head set her hair on fire,the one o’ clock news,the photo of Worcester in the living room,Grandma’s pink and purple jumpers and i will never forget the day Dad knocked on the door dressed as a tramp with blacked out teeth.Grandma was so cross.

    As for Grandpa,the Everest game,Pit,doing the washing up on Christmas Day,his pipe and for just being the sweetest,most humble man ever.

    I didn’t see Grandma as she aged,i am sorry for that.I was however at Grandpa’s side in his last moments.I was a Nurse at Newtown Hospital.Yes,he died of a massive stroke , but his last memories were of his former life with his wife,he went back so many years,was talking clearly about Gladys and their happy life together.They were truly in love as the beautiful picture depicts.

    So, Bun, thanks for stirring up all these beautiful memories for me and thanks for the picture.I will see you soon,

    Your Sis,Jac xxx

  14. Bun?!

  15. StillConfused says:

    I am sorry that you let their frailties in their advanced age cloud your understanding of these fine folks. My grandparents likewise lived long lives and the last bit was a bit of a physical and mental struggle. But I choose to remember them as they were in their prime… I may not have been there personally, but I hear plenty about it from my parents.

  16. Still confused: I don’t think your first statement is fair, in which you said:
    “I am sorry that you let their frailties in their advanced age cloud your understanding of these fine folks.”

    I think forgetting some of that might be a little natural as attention is focused on dealing with current health challenges. I think there is a lot we can do to share our lives w/posterity, younger relatives as well as to share the stories we know about older relatives, so that the younger ones can likewise appreciate them.

    I work in a nursing home, one of the most touching things to me is to see spouses visit their spouse w/devotion even though sometimes the spouse isn’t kind and yells,etc (ie due to dementia)at the well spouse.

    Awhile ago, one of our frail ladies showed me a Halloween photo of hers taken when she was newly married, a photo in which she was wearing some kind of scanty dancing costume! She is proud of that photo and keeping it in her room reminds others that this person is more than a frail lady who resides in a nursing home.

    Finally, as it relates to this thread, may I share an essay by Dr. Edwin Leap that relates to this
    topic? This essay describes a hope by this doctor that when his children are old that they will be treated with love, dignity and kindness, the love that he would have for them if he could be there:


  17. #14 – I thought it was Buns.

  18. Yes, now you know my weird nickname. Thanks sister!

  19. I assumed it was short for Bunny.

  20. I have no idea what it means. My sis is 10 years older than me, so I suspect it was coined when I was a baby and looked, er, like a bun?

  21. Latter-day Guy says:

    RE 19: like in the GB Shaw play, Misalliance.

  22. Very cool picture — thanks for sharing that. I agree with you about the substance of our hope in the resurrection.

  23. My sis is 10 years older than me, so I suspect it was coined when I was a baby and looked, er, like a bun?

    You were the bun in the oven. ;-)

  24. I guess so. I prefer “accident.”

  25. Researcher says:

    I call my youngest “Bun” sometimes. In this case, it’s short for “Bunny” or “Honey Bunny.” It also comes out from time to time as “Bunch.” His brothers and sisters don’t call him that, though. They use variations of his actual name.

    Thanks for the post, Ronan. What a lovely piece about family life, including your sister’s comments.

  26. Antonio Parr says:


    First, thanks for the moving post.

    Second, the great Pierce Pettis once wrote (to his children):

    I saw you being born; You’ll probably see me die.
    And in between those two points, there’s so little time.
    To be sure, we need to treasure each day and each person that God places in our paths, as you so eloquently pointed out in your reflections.

  27. Mum says that although Feb. 18th, 1976 was earth shattering and changed our lives for ever, especially your two older sisters, you were no accident. It had been 10 years since my last child and I knew that Heavenly Father had another spirit waiting to come to our family and sure enough you came to bless our family.
    Your Mum

  28. Uh-oh. I’m in even more trouble now.