In the 2019 film Yesterday, Jack, the lead character, wakes up from a blackout to find the world is exactly as he remembered, except for one thing, The Beatles have disappeared from history. Jack is the only person familiar with their songs. He becomes internationally famous by writing down and performing the songs he remembers, but realizes that the credit should go to the original band members, who are alive and well, but not the famous people they became.
At one point, Jack meets the seventy-nine year old John Lennon, living a quiet and reclusive life beside a beach. While the plot was too thin to sustain a full length film, that single moment made it memorable.
There seemed something joyously happy in the thought that John Lennon had not been shot dead on a New York street, but was alive and well and living on a shoreline somewhere, passing his years contentedly.
Undoubtedly, there was something childish in such a thought, some throwback to times when there was a belief that a happy ending was always possible.
At High Ham school, before the Easter holidays each year, our teacher Miss Rabbage would read us the Bible story of Good Friday and Easter. The story was well-known, we could have recited each detail, but not an Easter passed when I did not hope that the story would end in a different way. I would hope that Pilate would stand up to the crowd, that he would shy away from killing an innocent man.
Of course, it was an absurd notion. Why would a two thousand year old story change because a primary school child wished that it might be different? Christians of conventional views would have suggested that my version of the story would have completely undermined the Christian faith, but I would not have minded, I just wanted a happy ending.
So it is with my research of my family tree. Clicking through pages on Ancestry, I encountered an Ellen Poulton who was alive and well in the 1950s. It seemed an attractive thought, that she had not died of pelvic cellulitis in 1912 at the age of twenty-three, but had lived out a full span of years. Had she lived past the age of eighty, I might have met her and remembered her fifty years later.
Of course, it was a fond, foolish thought. My great grandmother died when her four children were aged between five and two years old.
Happy endings are in short supply.