We don't talk enough about why our old photos matter – but they do. This is why…

Ariane Sherine and her nana
(Image credit: Ariane Sherine)

My beloved Nana died from dementia in June, less than two weeks before she would have turned 99. Her last five years had seen her lose the use of her legs, motor skills and voice – and finally, fatally, her ability to swallow food and drink. 

Although I'd had years to come to terms with the fact she was dying, I was floored and depressed by her death. My favorite member of my family, she'd been kind and loving with a hilarious sense of humor. She had been around for my whole life, and I couldn't process the fact that she wasn't anymore.

Of Iranian-Indian heritage, Nana had been stunning – a beauty queen in her hometown of Nairobi, Kenya. Last year, on her 98th birthday, my aunt had baked an amazing cake with a topper featuring a photograph of Nana in her prime. She had been so beautiful in an elegant off-the-shoulder 1950s dress, yet 70 years on she stared blankly at the walls of the care home, unable to focus on the photograph.

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Ariane Sherine
Author and journalist

Ariane Sherine is an author, journalist, and singer-songwriter (under the artist name Ariane X). She has written for the Guardian, Times, Independent, Telegraph, Spectator, Mail, New Statesman, Esquire, NME, Sun and Metro. She regularly appears on television and radio.

She has written for numerous TV shows on BBC and Channel 4 including My Family, Countdown, and Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps.

In 2008, she created the hugely successful Atheist Bus Campaign, featuring adverts on buses which proclaimed 'There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.' Sponsored by Richard Dawkins, the campaign went global in 2009, running in 13 countries around the world. As a result, Ariane went on to edit and compile the bestselling celebrity charity anthology The Atheist's Guide to Christmas (HarperCollins).

She has also written three self-help books for major publisher Hachette: Talk Yourself Better, How to Live to 100 and The How of Happy (the last two co-written with public health consultant David Conrad).

Ariane's debut novel Shitcom was published in 2021, and is a hilarious body swap comedy. Her latest book is the biography The Real Sinéad O'Connor, to be published on 30th July 2024 by White Owl Books.