Sarah Churchill had a secret apartment in London. The place she spent most of her time, where she could do whatever she wanted without people watching her. This flat happened to be down the hall from my grandmother’s. They became good friends and would sit in grandma’s living room, getting tossed on gin and tonics. Then, Sarah’s driver would come fetch her and she would appear an hour later, reciting poetry on television. She was an actress and a hilarious, wonderful person who didn’t care about poshness, she loved art. My grandmother and father said I was named after her, but my mother said that wasn’t why, it was after mystical and ancient stories around Sarah. Not a rare thought.
The place doesn’t look like it used to. My grandmother passed away from lung cancer as I sat by her bedside in 2001. The last thing she ever said to me was “Cheers, darling!” she was smiling and she looked absolutely beautiful, despite the pain she had been in for 6 months. She had been hallucinating a man in the corner of the room holding our family dog, Lucy, who had passed away several years previous. My aunt had cared for her and never moved out of the flat, since she spent most of her life touring and working. Everyone loved my grandmother, she was funny and sweet and had the best stories, having lived through the blitz of London, and ran a family-owned nightclub in the late 40’s-60’s called Le Chez Moi.
My aunts and uncles were with her constantly, the house alive with friends and chatter, dancing, and music. Her death was devastating to many people.
My aunt has become a hoarder and is addicted to several medications due to her injury from years ago, and now she has a brain tumor. She was a full-time musical theatre actress for 40 years. She has destroyed her home and it is uninhabitable. I stayed up all night, sobbing, as I filled 10 garbage bags full of stuff and didn’t make a dent in any of it.
My grandmother’s room was untouched and the same for 50 years, now you can’t even find the bed and the furniture. To see such a wonderful life in a wonderful place come to this. My once delightful aunt gave up family, high pay, and romantic love to work onstage, now she is broken. Theatre didn’t cause her condition, but it didn’t help. Most of her community has fallen off because she yells at everyone.
Winston was right, people sacrifice everything for theatre, and often end up with nothing. Brilliant moths, flying toward the gaslight flame.