The week before thanksgiving 2005, I left for the UK as Granny had gotten really sick in hospital. The doctors asked that any family be with her as they didn't expect her to last that night. I got on a plane that same day and was at her side the next afternoon. When I walked in to see her she was very lucid (the opposite from the previous day) and immediately recognized me. We joked with each other - "What are you doing here?" we both asked each other (her in the hospital, and me in the UK) and we both got a chuckle out of that. I stuck around for 10 days, and saw her most every day, her condition worsening over that period. I got to hold her hand and just be around her which I'm glad I got to do. The last time I saw her, the day before my flight back, I got to tell her goodnight, and that I'd see her in the morning. Granny died in her sleep with my mother and brother at her side, about two weeks later, on December 8th 2005. I still can't believe she's gone. Living so far away from one's family is so difficult, and I can't begin to tell you how much guilt I have for not seeing her more often, or calling her more, or that she never got to meet my youngest son. I was always very close to both my maternal grandparents, and I'll always miss them tremendously.
Since the initial trip was so costly, I couldn't afford to go back for the funeral. I wrote the following for her funeral, however, and the vicar read it during the service at the church. I wish I could've been there but I'm glad I got to be a part of the service in some way anyway.
As children, we refer to the people around us with ‘cute’ versions of their names, like “Mummy” and “Daddy”. As we grow up we start to use the more ‘mature’ versions of those names, like “Mum”, or “Dad”.
As a teenager I’d hear my friends talk about their grannies as “Grandmother” or “Grandma”, which always seemed like a much more ‘grown up’ way to refer to one’s grandmother, but somehow, I felt, if I were to any other title, I would no longer be referring to Granny. She was Granny! Not Grandma, or Grandmother. Just Granny.
As we grow up, our relationships with siblings and parents changes a lot. We see each other grow and change and become the people we all are today. Annoying brothers and sisters become good friends with common challenges like raising children and making a living. Parents who you once rebelled against become more like peers too, and you begin to notice incredible similarities in them and yourself as you mature.
My relationship with Granny though, at least from my point of view, didn’t really change much over the years. To me, she was an unchanging rock. Always there, always the same, always Granny. As a child I don’t ever remember a time when going to Granny and Grandad’s house wasn’t great. There was always something to do there, whether it was playing in the water tank outside, whacking tennis balls for six over or into the hedge, playing a board game or some cards, doing a jigsaw puzzle, or just sitting and having a cup of tea, or maybe a peanut butter sandwich with some pickled onions. It was always a pleasurable experience. We never had to make an effort to have a good time. We were just happy to be there. It felt good, and safe, and happy.
I always remember when leaving their house as a child, granny would chase the car as we drove away, making us laugh till the last minute. We’d wave out of the back window as Granny and Grandad stood outside the house, waving back. I remember continuing to wave well after we’d disappeared behind the trees on White Horse Hill, thinking that they could somehow still see us and were still standing there, waving. I was sure sometimes they’d wave to us all the way home to Rugby, or at least until until I fell asleep in the car and stopped waving back.
Losing Grandad was devastating to me, although at the time, being the age I was, I found it all very confusing and strange. How hard it must have been for Granny to lose such a great man. I remember her making beds, dusting, and staying busy immediately after he died, pressing on like the trooper that she was. And press on she did, showing us all that life goes on even after a loved one has passed. Somehow, through it all, Granny didn’t weaken, but stayed strong. She also kept his spirit alive, in my eyes. Grandad died when I was 11, yet now, 17 years later, I never stopped thinking about them both as a unit.
As I grew older I did less jigsaw puzzles and stopped playing cricket out front, and my beloved water tank disappeared… but I still loved being at Granny’s house. It always still made me feel happy and safe, and I still didn’t have to make any effort to enjoy myself there.
It’s times like these I regret being so far from the people I love. I’m sorry I’m not there today to say my final farewell to Granny in person. In some ways today would have been my way to say goodbye to both Granny AND Grandad, since I was too young to say goodbye to him when he passed. I regret that my children won’t get to enjoy Great Granny’s company, and that they did not know her better. They will, however, benefit from the legacy she has left behind in me, and that’s character, steadfastness, and love. And, like she did so well for Grandad, I will keep her spirit alive.
I’m so sorry to see Granny go today, but happy that she is being reunited with Grandad. I know they’ll be taking care of each other again, and even though I can no longer see them, I’m still waving out of the back window. I know they’re both waving back.