It seems befitting that my first post be my goodbye to this woman who meant to much to me, and inspired so much in me, particularly through her death this year.
“I confess I’d started to jot down some memories of Granny before she passed away. Partly because it was clear from the first doctor’s call in July that we were approaching the end, and mostly because in spending these beautiful last weeks with her and recalling happy times together, one memory sparked another, that in turn another, and I became anxious to make sure I got all these precious gems down on paper.
It was difficult however to know where to start in writing these words to say to you today, as knowing where to start; what best depicts the very best of our magnificent Granny is a tough job as there is such a wealth of memories to choose from. Such profound love, such generosity of spirit, so many valuable lessons taught, so much laughter, such delicious recipes, so many skills, so many gifts (and I mean both gifts of character as well as material, and we all know she loved to shop!); she brought so much to our family and no doubt to you her many friends.
I decided to share one of my first memories of Granny by way of a beginning. Being sat alone as a little girl of three on the stairs at Windsor Road watching a terrific storm brewing. The sky darkened and I ventured out in my thick Yorkshire accent which tickled Granny no end, “Granny?” No reply. No doubt she was busying about the garden or garage in her usual whirlwind way. The lightning struck, the thunder growled. I burst into tears. Seconds later Granny swooped in, her lovely face soft with concern, her wide open arms my very own port in a storm. She encompassed me in a tight cuddle, reassuring me that she would never be far away, and certainly would never leave me alone. My heroine. Unbeknownst to me at that moment she continued to be my unwavering port throughout various childhood and adolescent storms.
During one of these evenings we spent supporting eachother as a family recently, we laughed at the memory of an eight year old me flinging myself on my bed wailing “Granny! I want my Granny – she’s the only one who understands me….” Only two years before I had been the only one who could understand her in her hospital bed following her stroke. Perhaps the lack of fear and projection and the curiosity of a six year old meant that I was simply able to focus on the sounds she was making and was able to work it out, but it felt like, and I still believe it was mostly to do with our strong connection and bond we shared.
She made an incredible recovery from her stroke. Relearning almost all of that which had been lost or impaired in order to continue to pass it on; a teacher through and through. She taught me SO much. I remember getting to reception class and being confused why not everyone could recite the alphabet and write their name already. She taught me how to draw, how to paint, how to formulate perspective in a piece of artwork. She taught me the pleasure of playing a musical instrument, fondly encouraging my sometimes rather tortuous practicing of the violin, the piano and the flute. She taught me how to press tongue(!!!), how to make lemon cheese as soft as butter. She taught me that as women we must nurture ourselves, with good food on the inside and with luxurious products on the outside! She taught me the pleasure of having beautiful things in my home environment, the pleasure in buying, wrapping and giving gifts – she always so kindly poured over our gifts and their wrapping as we gave them to her; she was beyond question my favourite person to buy a present for. Thoughtfully she always wore one of the presents we’d bought her whenever we visited – some I even forgot I’d bought once or twice, she obviously never did.
In recent years her brain was affected by dementia. Sometimes this was difficult to see, and painfully was very difficult for her in her more lucid moments as she knew she wasn’t “quite right”. To be honest though we had some terrific laughs at the expense of dementia, like the Christmas day when I went in to give her a good morning cuddle and a cup of tea and sang “Happy Christmas Granny!!!” to which she replied not skipping a beat “Happy New Year!!!” Another beautiful gift of dementia was that it slowed her down. On my fridge I have a few cheerful pastel coloured photos from a couple of years ago when my sister and I enjoyed some warm sunny summer afternoons with her in Carwood Nursing Home’s garden. There we were – not “doing” much, not saying anything of any real consequence – just basking in our reflected pleasure in eachother’s company. Despite the illness; the twinkle in her eyes, the interest in her eyes, the kindness and the sheer love in her eyes all almost palpable, never lost.
Her last weeks, intense weeks of both incredible light and terrifying darkness as she progressed toward her transition, feel too fresh and too intimate to share today, so I’ll finish by sharing the words a close friend and confidante shared with me. “We live as we live, and then we die in just the same way we have lived.” In being beside Granny this last month I can confirm this is true. She died with tremendous strength, determination, courage and grace.
I believe that she also learnt an important lesson in the final steps of her journey however; how to really let go. And so it is with a mixture of strength, determination, courage, grace, and the vulnerability and the surrender required to really let go sometimes, that I will continue along my journey as a woman, a daughter, a sister and a mother. Grateful to the core for all she was, all she brought and taught me, grateful for the privilege of being at her side in her last weeks on earth and for this illuminating experience of death. Promising to share what I can of her legacy with my own family and friends.