I am a life lover. I live it. I make memories, I have fun. Every now and then though, life takes me by surprise. Today has been one of those days.
Within 9 months, I lost two of the most influential women to ever grace my life. Both of them, feisty, passionate, cheeky, witty, hilarious, sharp, formidable, determined, independent, inspirational and beautiful. They are, I’m sure working their magic to make life currently so very beautiful and full of complete happiness.
One of these women though, I was lucky enough to be able to call Granny. She raised me to be who I am today. She wasn’t just my Gran, she was my Mum. That was how she rolled.
She often used to say “I won’t be around forever Katie”
I would hole her beautiful hand and told her “Shush, I don’t want to talk about it”
Rather selfish really. I never for a minute considered that she might want to talk about it. Get things out in the open about what she wanted when she was gone. She may have hated coming out of church to Elvis’ “If I could dream” or Going into the crematorium to Neil Diamond’s “Beautiful Noise” I doubt it, but she might. She may have had a very different plan for the celebration of her life. That though, is how us Brits are. We don’t talk about death. It’s not the done thing.
I never believed she’d go. Even when I knew she would have to very soon because she was so poorly and on oxygen 24 hours a day and staying alive became such a struggle for her. She left us two years ago today and it feels like it’s been an eternity without her. This beauty is missed more now than ever and thought of every single day. Life hasn’t been the same since. But then, it was never going to be.
I found a poem when she died. The words rang so very true.
SHE IS GONE
by David Harkins
You can shed tears that she is gone
Or you can smile because she has lived
You can close your eyes and pray that she will come back
Or you can open your eyes and see all that she has left
Your heart can be empty because you can’t see her
Or you can be full of the love that you shared
You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday
Or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday
You can remember her and only that she is gone
Or you can cherish her memory and let it live on
You can cry and close your mind, be empty and turn your back
Or you can do what she would want: smile, open your eyes, love and go on.
When I found these words, I knew instantly that they were the ones I would read at her funeral. Before the day came, I had been in to church and practiced them so many times, just so that I would become hardened to them. So that on the day I would not waver in any way in front of everyone who was there to celebrate her life. I truly believed these words when I read them that day and I know they are what she would have been telling us to do. I cannot now though read them without crying, despite still believing she would want us to do all that they say.
When it was my turn to speak on the day of her funeral, I took that dreaded deep breath, stood up and walked to the front of a full church. As I walked forward, my left hand instinctively reached out to gently touch her coffin. It felt like a way of reassuring her that she was safe. The last moment I felt that I could love her. It was as close as I could get to touching her one last time. My final chance to do her proud in her physical company. It was my final gesture of pure, genuine love.
In the two years that have passed since then, I have learnt that time heals and life without a loved one, especially one as special as she was, does become easier. Instead of memories being painful, they instead offer you comfort and joy. Today though, on the second anniversary of her death, the physical pain has come so hard and unexpectedly that it hurts more than the day she left us two years ago. I ache. Every inch of my body aches and my heart feels more torn today than it has in the last two years. I have busied myself seeing friends and doing things she would want me to. However, the day is the day and there is no escaping it. Things consume us sometimes even when we do not want them to. We sometimes have no control over that. And so, I am going with the rhythm of the day. If the tears need to flow, then who am I to stop them? I used to refuse to cry. Now I do not. I believe it is good for the soul. Crying is just as good as the laughter that I know will eventually follow. Pretending to be strong gets nobody anywhere. It will always come and bite you on the backside eventually so you may as well deal with it in the moment.
Earlier, I went to look for something that I wanted and in doing so I have found some things that I have been able to seek great ease in. I got the dominoes out that we loved to play together from me being young even right up to a few weeks before she died. I also found the speech I wrote for her 90th Birthday. I have laughed at the memories of that day and all the other days I was lucky enough to be able to share with her. Those words I wrote mean more now than they did when I originally wrote them. Why? Because she kept them. My Gran didn’t keep much but she kept that piece of paper tightly folded away in the ornate, highly polished bureau in her lounge. I seek great relief in that because from those words she could always remind herself, even when I was not there to tell her, how much she was loved.
I have always been a private person. I share some things, but not everything. Today I feel like sharing. Sharing my words from her 90th Birthday feels like the right thing to do. Sharing my love for her feels perfect and letting the world know how phenomenal she was.
How that alone makes me chuckle. When I say share it with the world (or rather the few that may read this) my Gran at 96 was never, no mater how hard I tried, able to understand what the internet or the World Wide Web actually was. The fact that her glorious face is now attached to it in this Blog has added sunshine to my day.
“Happy 90th Birthday Gran!
We have held this surprise party today because, frankly, we knew you would object if we told you we were going to make a fuss but there are times in your life when it’s important to make a special point, and this is one of those times. So, here we are, all of us together, celebrating the 90th Birthday of one very special lady, you Gran.
Gran, because of you, I have been able to experience some of the best things in life. Syrup on toast and a Fox’s classic biscuit washed down with a pint of Diet Coke for breakfast after you had babysat the night before. You taught me the lifelong skills of knitting and more importantly cooking the best Parkin ever! Not only that though, you have taught me the meaning of love, laughter, happiness and courage.
As a child and still now, your beautiful eyes, and sweet smile comforted me no matter how difficult life became. You were and still are always there when I need you. You are my role model and my inspiration.
You are now 90 but I sometimes look at you and I see myself in your eyes which luckily for you, only makes you 26! You have energies to admire. You make me howl with laughter when you look at men your own age and tell me they do not stand a chance because they are “old codgers” are “too slow” or “too boring” and simply “too old to keep up” with you. This a testament to you, a beautiful, lovely, wonderful Dynamo with a passion for life younger than your years.
I also need to say Gran that you have a tremendous amount of love in your awesome heart. It may not always be shown, but it is there. I know it even if nobody else does and that is all that’s important. You have been an extraordinary Grandmother. One in a million, not only to me but also to Neil.
I want to take a moment to thank everyone for being here. A magnificent assembly of family and friends, all here to celebrate with my dearest Granny on your 90th Birthday. They are all here to show their love and appreciation for you. A most special lady.
So, Gran, the Birthday Girl, the life and soul of any party, especially this one. We are thrilled to share this wonderful occasion with you. We are also utterly sincere when we tell you how much we love you, how much we appreciate you and how much we wish for you, many, many more seasons in the sun. May you sing and dance for a long time to come.
Happy Birthday to a very special lady. My Golden inspiration. I love you so very much.”
The words I would write now would include so much more. I am 9 years wiser and although we think we are grown up, we never stop learning and my journey since I wrote these words has become richer and wiser. The fact is though that they are what I wrote then. These are the words she heard me lovingly and genuinely speak that day. They are the words she kept. The happy memories of her are what I keep. I will cherish what I had with my Granny for the many years I was blessed with her. After all, I had my Gran for longer than some and for that I know I am incredibly lucky. For as long as I continue to breathe, her memory will remain alive in me. Always.