The poignant photo of an elderly couple holding hands captured the heart of Kate and the entire nation.
Last year, the Duchess of Cambridge and the National Portrait Gallery invited people from all walks of life to join in the Hold Still exhibition. The project aimed at capturing life in lockdown and garnered over 31,000 entries. Among the submissions, 100 were further selected by Catherine and five other judges for a book, Hold Still, that is raising money for the mental health charity Mind and the National Portrait Gallery.
Among one of the entries was that of an elderly couple, Pat and Ron Wood. The photo, titled Forever Holding Hands, shows the Woods holding hands as they lay in hospital beds. Not long after the touching image was taken, the couple died, five days apart, according to the Daily Mail.
The photo was initially sent in to the exhibition by the Woods’ granddaughter, Hayley Evans, with a little information about the circumstances of the photo. The moving image of 94-year-old Ron holding on to his 91-year-old wife’s hand reflects how they lived throughout their 71 year marriage — hand in hand. When Ron was hospitalized with a broken hip last year, he developed COVID, and his wife was soon there with him as she battled COVID, too.
Fortunately, the staff at the hospital had the compassion to reunite the two by moving Pat to her husband’s room to be by his side. “My nan, it made her absolute life being able to be next to him. She could just sit there holding his hand (and say) ‘I love you Ron, love you Ron! Come on Ron,’ and he was like, ‘Stop talking woman!'” shared Hayley with the duchess.
When the duchess reached out to talk to Hayley about the photo, she shared:
“I loved your sentence about saying how they appreciate the tiny things and took nothing for granted,” adding, “the ability to touch each other and hold each other in those last few days … I think things like that shouldn’t be taken for granted…”
While the photo is poignant, the fact it was selected for the final book has brought some comfort to Hayley. “The fact they’re still having an impact and their ripples and their message. That was their message throughout their lives together, the love and the little things. And it’s just reaching so many people,” she shared in her chat with Catherine.
Through the exhibition the Duchess of Cambridge has been privy to these often personal and emotional moments in the lives of strangers. It has been a reminder to her, and all those who get to see the images, of what we should value most in life:
“Their memory will certainly be remembered that’s for sure … Their message, you know the fact that that sort of resilience, bravery, but also these small acts are the things that really matter and that really keep us together,” Catherine shared with Hayley.
To listen to the conversation between the Duchess of Cambridge and Hayley, and to see some adorable photos of the Woods, click on the video below: