Tuesday, 14 November 2006


My Gran died three weeks ago. I miss her dearly. She was, and still is, a major influence in my life.

For the last three years Gran lived in a nursing home that cared for people with dementia. Prior to that Gran had lived, fiercely independently on her own for years. When she died it was bittersweet experience for all her family (I think) as she'd been very ill for a couple of weeks. I guess we had experienced anticipatory grief in waiting together for her to pass away.

In the end she was with three of her four children, her son in law and two grand children. She died, with all of us around her quietly, gently and with a great deal of dignity. When I die, this is how I want it to be.

I put on the suit I wore at Grans funeral today. It was for a meeting with some upper wigs of the behemoth that is our National Health Service. It was the first time I'd worn it since the funeral. I'd forgotten that I'd left a print out of the tribute I gave as part of the ceremony for Gran in the breast pocket.

I read it through before the meeting. I was late in to the room, predictably.

Remembering Gran and the way she lived her life has really lifted my spirits.

Here's what I said about Gran, hopefully it'll give you a flavour of the wonderful person she was;

"Grandma was 4’ 9’’ at her tallest. For a small person she was the biggest woman I’ve ever known. Grandma commanded an immediate respect and admiration from all those around her. She had almost limitless energy and drive. Looking back, I can hardly recall ever seeing Grandma sitting down.

We have photos and videos and all sorts of keep sakes that will remind us of Grandma. However there is one thing that for Miche & I sums up all that Grandma was.

This is a wooden spoon that Grandma had. She gave it to us shortly before moving out of her flat. If you didn’t know Grandma you might assume that this is just an old worn out wooden spoon that should be discarded and a new one bought. But if you knew Grandma you would know why this is so special to us.

I’ve never seen a wooden spoon so worn down. I can hardly imagine the elbow grease and years of effort to so smoothly wear this spoon down. This signifies Grandmas determination and stamina for life in my view. That, and biceps like walnuts.

This spoon must be at least 30 years old. Grandma could have easily afforded a new spoon, but she chose to keep the same old spoon that she’d had for years. This reflects Gran’s make do and mend attitude to her life that so many of her generation shared. I think many of us can learn a thing or two from her. What with our shiny new cars, dvd players, PC’s ; wide screen TV’s.

We hang this spoon up in our kitchen so that we’re reminded of Grandma each day and inspired by her drive and determination to meet the challenges each day and to appreciate what we do have, rather than worrying about what we don’t.

I have so many other memories of Grandma that I will cherish. Some of them you may recall too. I’d like to share some of them with you;

* I will never forget the smell of her Sunday lunch as we walk up to Grandmas front door.

* The best Yorkshire puddings I’ve ever tasted, or ever likely to. Mind you, I won’t miss the veg so much as she would usually start cooking the veg for Sunday lunch on Wednesday afternoon.

* Making brass rubbings of her metal trays that she’d brought back from Africa of elephants.

* Playing with her little bakelite walking cow, trying to get it to walk down a book without falling over.

* Peering into her display cabinet at her delicate china ornaments and Faberge eggs, wondering if I’d ever be able to play with them. I was never allowed to. Even as an adult I didn’t dare open the cabinet.

* Always coming away from her flat with a gift of some sort. A small toy, fifty pence piece or a keepsake.

* Boxes upon boxes of her biscuits that she cooked in industrial size quantities and taking them to my work and sharing them out. People who’d never met my Gran would ask after her and ask when they would get their next fix of her ginger snaps.

* Looking through her photos and mementos from her numerous holidays. Imagining grandma on the Great Wall of China, at the base of Victoria Falls, travelling by helicopter in the Grand Canyon and taking a balloon trip in her 80’s.

* Drinking tea out of china cups and learning to believe that tea in ceramic mugs was somehow evil and ought to be a crime against humanity.

* Wondering what else she had secreted away in that huge cupboard in her flat. It really was like a tardis in there.

* Listening to her tell stories of how she cooked for royalty. Chuckling at her making egg and chips for a prince who’d never had anything like it before. And him coming back for more.

* Having grandma stay over at our house on Christmas Eve.

* Being so proud when I told people about my Grandma who, in her late eighties still lived independently and self sufficiently.

* Grandma taking care of other residents in her block of flats, many of them significantly younger than she was.

I’ve got a lock of my hair from when I was 8 months old. Grandma gave me it not so long ago. (She had it archived this in that huge Tardis cupboard.) I can remember the day that she gave me it. At the time Gran struggled to remember whether she’d left the oven on or not, or what day of the week it was, but she could still tell the story of how she cut a lock of my hair and sealed it in a little envelope for ‘memories’, back in 1972.

I realise now why she gave me this, as around that time she seemed to be constantly giving away other important things to her, including the spoon; keepsakes and items that I remember being important to her.

Grandma was giving away her memories before she lost them.

Now that Grandma is gone in body, our task is to keep these memories and experiences safe for her. By doing this we’ll keep her close.

I know all of us will miss Grandma, Elsie dearly. She was a woman of such energy, spirit and determination who had a limitless capacity for generosity and love. But Grandma dying is no tragedy. And I don’t think she would want us to think it was. I feel that Grandma would like all of us to remember her how she was;

* Sprightly
* Determined
* Funny
* Belligerent
* Stubborn
* Caring
* Generous and
* Loving

She will never be forgotten."

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