Remembering my Nan (things I learnt about grief)

My beautiful and amazing Nanna passed away this year (I have already mentioned her in a previous post and will probably keep on writing about her forever). As those we love get older we know that it is only a matter of time before we that call, though nothing prepares you for it. We comfort ourselves with empty sentences; “they were old, they had such a long, wonderful life” but it doesn’t make the loss any easier. We can say “she was unwell and now she is at peace” but I don’t even know if that is true.

Nan had been battling Alzheimer’s for sometime. It is such a devastating disease – watching someone you absolutely love and adore slowly deteriorate in mind and body. To see this vivacious woman who was smart, creative and always go on the go become a shell of emptiness.

It is cruel for the person suffering. It is cruel for the family and friends. It is cruel for my Grandad who loved her for over sixty years.

I felt guilty about the grief I was feeling because, yes, she was old and, yes, she was unwell but I soon learnt grief does not discriminate. Grief doesn’t hold off until it feels ‘worthy’ to punch us in the guts. Grief just is. And you have to go for the ride – as horrible and as puffy-eyed and as runny-nosed and as downright sad as it is.

Part of that ride was the funeral and part of my need to express my grief was to speak at the funeral.

This is the poem I wrote in the memory of my Nan for my family.

For Nan

I told her not to go

You’re staying right here, I said

But she shook her head

Gave that smile

Patted my hand

And went away

Leaving an empty space

It is big

This space

It cannot be filled

It is paddling

It is laughter

It is butterfly cakes and kisses

It is cups of tea

And two biscuits

It is the warmth from the heater

The mantelpiece

The handheld hoover

The word hoover

And daft a’peth

And ice lolly

And frock

And ironing on the kitchen bench

It is swinging in the garden under the peppermint tree

It is burials for goldfish

It is the budgies and the rabbits and the quails

Birdbaths and birdseed

It is the nest she made when we were sick

And always having something to do

We can have a look in the hall cupboard

Play Scrabble or cards or Boggle or bingo

Or that game with Lucille Ball on the box

Colour in a doily

Warm homemade play-dough

Pink or blue?

It is the Easter bonnets

(We would never win first prize)

It is the dress-up days

Craft days

Birthdays

Rainy days

Christmas days

The feast laid out on the pool table

The tablecloths and serviettes

The Christmas cake with Santa’s footprints

Homemade fruit mince pies without orange peel

No backyard cricket please!

It is ballroom dancing with Grandad

And seeing them hold hands

And kiss

And staying up to watch The Bill

And sleeping-over

It is feeling loved

And safe

It is stories of the war

The Blitz

The bomb-shelter

The boys

It is Taft hairspray

It is lavender and Charlie perfume and Oil of Ulay

It is walks in the park

Coffee and cake at the shops

A weak cappuccino

It is Dunsborough holidays and caravan parks

It is advice

Guidance

Support

It is a second home

It is someone always on your side

It is kindness and a smile and a ‘good morning’ to a stranger

It is Nanna and Grandad

Nan and Gug

It is a beautiful woman

A kind, caring soul

A generous spirit

A creative mind

She has left an empty space

But enough memories

Enough moments

Enough love

To fill it and leave it overflowing

Engagement Photograph - 15th August 1949

Nanna and Grandad – Iris “Billie” and Ron
Engagement Photograph
15th August 1949

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