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The Power of Love: Rita Marcus Feb 21, 1925 – Mar 28, 2014

Apr 192014

Eulogy at the funeral of Rita Marcus, THE V.O.G. of Very Old, on Mar 31, 2014, spoken by her son Dr. Stephen Michael Marcus:

It says in Psalm 90:Cheers!

“The days of our years are threescore years and ten; or by reason of strength fourscore years”

Our beloved mother, mother-in-law, grandmother and friend Rita Marcus lived out her allotted three score years, and then added not just another ten years, but lived very fully and actively into her twentieth year after that.

A large part of those extra years were spent first of all caring for her husband David Marcus, and then, after his death, for over fourteen years living alone without her life partner.


Those who knew Rita will probably have been struck first of all by her apparent frailty, both physically and often also emotionally.

Yet as I’ve watched her grow into her latter years, I’ve realized that behind it all was an incredible strength and iron will that allowed her to live her life exactly as she wanted.

She was proud to still be driving until last year, and even that was only stopped by a leg ulcer and the agonizingly painful compression bandages which were, in her case and that of so many others, still the only thing that modern medicine has to treat such a condition.

Despite that, she continued to live alone and take care of herself.

Only last Wednesday, two days before her passing, she was unpacking a delivery from her online shopping at Tesco’s, which she had completed herself despite the torturous complexity of “Verified by Visa. She then prepared herself a chicken casserole for dinner.

A few days before she had spoken with me about the latest round of complications with her leg, for which she had been prescribed a new course of extra strong antibiotics. She said something curious, which I took as referring to her leg ulcer, which she had already lived with for over six months.

Very calmly she said: “oh well, it will either kill me or it won’t!”

This matter-of-fact statement turned out rather prophetically to be about the antibiotic capsules themselves. While waiting for her casserole to be ready, she accidently breathed in instead of swallowing one of those capsules and got antibiotic powder into her lungs. While being rushed to hospital thanks to prompt intervention by her carer Eduardo, her greatest concern was what was going to happen to her chicken casserole.

I spoke with her over the phone the next day in hospital as she lay there with my sister Georgie by her side. She said “don’t worry about me, I’ll be alright”.

Again I misunderstood her meaning. Until the next morning when, very peacefully, she slipped away to the rest she so richly deserves.

As always getting her own way, she probably very skillfully avoided any extended period with the hospital machines and procedures which she had always been really clear she did not want.


I was standing in mum’s home on Saturday. To my surprise it was not difficult to be there, for, as many of you will know, it is simple and elegant and beautifully maintained, which is how she was until the very end.

And then I was overcome with overwhelming grief and racked with sobs and screaming.

It was grief for all the things that had not yet been said and could now never be said.

And then, in a moment of stillness and clarity, I realized that they were things that could never have been said, no matter if her life had continued for a few more days, months, years or even decades. For Rita was a very private person and did not easily share her inner thoughts and feelings even with her closest family or friends.

I realized that the grief that had overcome me was not for what had not been said or done. It was for the fact that it could simply not have been otherwise, for she was the child of her parents and the product of a much earlier generation. What I had been wanting for so long had simply not been possible with her in the living years, through no fault of hers or mine.

And then I saw that what she had done with her allotted years and more had been wonderful. Two children, three grandchildren, a long marriage, and an even longer and very full life.


As I looked back I realized that she had made amazing changes in her extra twenty years. She went from being a traditional dependent wife to living independently. Managing her own finances quite honestly much better than her husband ever had – in fact I can tell you that her grandsons Jordan and Zac have just reviewed her personal accounting ledger of daily expenses and were quite amazed at the detail and precision. If she were still here they would probably have a CFO position opening for her right now!

She also learned to use a computer and the Internet like a fish in water. This blog,, even got her interviewed on BBC radio, and through it she deepened an accidental connection with the New York photographer Ari Seth Cohen, who featured her on page 28 of his book of elegant elders, called Advanced Style.

As her blog following grew and she received enthusiastic messages from women of all ages from around the world, she readily took on the responsibility of putting out the most positive message through her public persona – a quality with which she also tried her best to infuse her daily life.

While I was at her home, Florence called. Florence has been one of the many marvelous people who have been supporting Rita during the last months when her leg ulcer had really prevented her from getting around herself. I had never thought that our mother would have been able to look positively on a physical condition which had given her so much pain and most of all deprived her of her prized independence.

To my surprise Florence said that Rita had told her that the leg ulcer had been a blessing in disguise, because with all the people supporting her she had made so many new friends, and also been able to be there for them when they talked with her about their problems.

The many new friends and connections she made over the last years, including Florence, Eduardo, Cami, Bernie and Sabah, her regular nurses at Fairbrook Medical Centre, and so many others are also reflected on her beloved Internet by over 100 messages from friends on Facebook offering their condolences over the last few days. She loved, was loved and was not alone.

Still in her apartment, my eye fell on a refrigerator magnet my wife Barbara and I had bought her some time ago in France:

“Une maman est semblable a une rose qui ne se fane jamais”

“A mother is like a rose which never fades”

I felt a great weight lift and realized that my connection with my mother is not something which ends with death.

In some mysterious way as she sheds this mortal coil which she had born so courageously, bravely and often painfully these last few years, a whole new phase in this relationship which never fades is only just beginning.

Just to make the point and to have the last word, an email arrived the day after she died, letting us know that a CD she had ordered online was now on its way in the mail. The CD is “The Power of Love” by Sam Bailey.

As we let go, as we now must, of the song’s early line “I hold on to your body” and go deeper into its text and meaning, let us take these as her final words to all of us, for now:

Even though there may be times
It seems I’m far away
Never wonder where I am
‘Cause I am always by your side

We’re heading for something
Somewhere I’ve never been
Sometimes I am frightened
But I’m ready to learn
Of the power of love


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“Weather Report”

Jun 92013

heartSince the start of the New Year I have been a little under the weather and consequently found myself early one morning arriving in an ambulance at one of London’s top Heart Hospitals where I had to undergo an emergency heart procedure.

From the moment I arrived at the Hospital, the treatment I received under the National Health Service was at all times excellent, as was the follow-up I received from my own surgery when I came home. If I had been a Private patient I could not have been treated any better.
I have lots of catching-up to do, but I’m sure with the right amount of rest and food, plus a lovely hot summer, I shall soon be back to my OLD self!!
VOG-TwibbonA big “Thank You” to all the lovely Doctors and Nurses I had the pleasure to meet during my recovery!
Rita Marcus. V.O.G.
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“The Digital Human”: tune in to V.O.G. on BBC Radio 4!

Oct 32012

Last week I was interviewed by BBC Radio 4 for a programme which is being broadcast soon! It was originally scheduled as part of the second episode on “Influence” and will now be included as a more prominent part of a later episode. Watch this spot for updates!

The show is “The Digital Human” with Aleks Krotoski and the subject of this episode is “Influence”. It relates to my blog Very Old Grandmother and my meeting with Ari Seth Cohen, the very successful New York photographer, some two years ago here in London.

Should be interesting!!

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Jul 302012

Congratulations to Danny Boyle for his amazing and unique presentation of the memorable opening to the Olympics.

England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales were all included in this opening ceremony which had The Queen “parachuting in” with none other than 007 James Bond (alias Daniel Craig)!
The highlight for me was when David Beckham came speeding down the Thames at the wheel of that Speed Boat carrying the Olympic Flame on its last journey!  (Ah! if only this V.O.G. were fifty years younger!)
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“Advanced Style” Party in London

Jun 92012

I had a great time at Ari Seth Cohen’s “Advanced Style” Book Launch Party in London on Thursday evening.

It was a great success with the champagne flowing and everyone in a happy and festive mood!

Ari certainly looked very stylish himself in a bright pink suit!

His book is a “must have” for your coffee table – check it out here.

You’ll find yours truly on Page 28!

Thanks again Ari for being such a source of inspiration for this V.O.G. and others all around the world.


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Her Majesty’s Visit to Ireland

May 242011

I cannot allow last week’s visit to Ireland by the Queen to pass without giving praise to Her Majesty for the amazing manner in which she conducted herself at all times.
Imagine the strain each day of the possibility of being the target of a sniper’s bullet or even the victim of one of the (fortunately few) bombs which had been intercepted.

Throughout the whole visit the Queen carried out all her engagements looking lovely in her many delightful outfits and always appearing completely relaxed.

Finally, my personal praise has to go to Her Majesty for the way in which,on the night of the big Ball, she climbed those two flights of stairs unaided !

“God Save the Queen!”!

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My Highlights of the Royal Wedding

May 22011
I wouldn’t have missed it for anything and those cynics who didn’t want to know, well, it’s their loss!
I was glued to the TV for most of the day and, looking back, here are some of my highlights of this lovely occasion……………
Kate’s dress was beautiful and so is she (I love lace). Her sister’s dress too was simple but tasteful and the little bridesmaids and pageboys were delightful. Loved the Queen in a pretty shade of yellow……
The Mother of the Bride, too, looked very lovely and quietly elegant. THOSE HATS!!  I must say, some were a little O.T.T.!! (over-the-top!)………. I wonder if my friend Ari was anywhere near with his Camera?
William and Harry both looked very handsome in their uniforms.    Re the Guests:  Loved David Beckham, stylish and handsome (Pity his wife couldn’t manage a smile). Thought Boris Johnson looked quite dapper.
To sum up, I really think that all the guests made a very great effort to enhance this very memorable occasion.
A little P.S…….Did anyone catch a glimpse of the Duchess of Kent who I was so sad to see looked rather frail?
In conclusion, may I wish The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge a Healthy and Happy life together!
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Advanced Style – Thank You Ari!

Apr 122011

I’m just amazed by all the wonderful comments from so many readers of Ari Seth Cohen’s “Advanced Style” blog,, as a result of the April 6 interview he had with me about my own V.O.G. blogging activities here!

You can see his article and the comments here.

All I can say is a big “thank you” to Ari and to all his readers!

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A Knighthood for John Simpson?

Mar 72011

With the recent news we are receiving from Libya I am filled with admiration for all the Newsmen and women who put their lives in danger in order for us to learn first-hand about situations as they occur.

In particular I would like to mention John Simpson who, over the years, has been reporting from all over the world in such countless dangerous situations so that we at home may be aware of what is happening.

In 1991 John Simpson was awarded the CBE in the Gulf War Honours List and I am now wondering whether it's time, twenty years on, for him to be given the honour to become Sir John Simpson?

Your comments or support would be appreciated!

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Vogue Italia lists!

Aug 72010

Vogue Italia interviews Ari Seth Cohen about his Advanced Style blog and mentions too!

Read the article in – and make sure you catch the slide show on that page of some of Ari’s gorgeous photos of other VOGs.

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