This afternoon I received a call from my Aunt. Through her tears, she asked me to get to London Hospital as fast as I could – It was Nan…
By the time I got there, she was gone. I stayed with Nan and the rest of my loved ones until it was time to go.
No matter how old or expected death is, it always shocks you. Once the hypothetical becomes a harsh reality, you forget everything you thought you’d prepared for…I guess this is a side-effect of love.
Nan had been on my mind vividly and often for the last few days. When my Dad called to say she was in hospital again with suspected pneumonia, I just had a feeling…
I was supposed to meet a friend for lunch this afternoon. We had originally planned to meet at the O2 Centre, but something told me that Stratford would be best. I arrived for said lunch date fairly early, and decided to wait in Stratford’s Theatre Royal Bar. Nan was in a classical band with her siblings, and they’d often sung there as children. Being there made me think of her. Earlier that morning, I’d messaged my Dad, asking him if he knew whether Nan was back home or in hospital. Although his work commitments prohibited him from giving a reply, I knew that Stratford was the right place to be – neither far from Nan’s house or the hospital.
My instincts had led me to being in her presence, and being nearer to her in the final hours, but my instincts had also led me to writing the below, just a few weeks ago. This tribute to Nan was the result of a random writing exercise I took part in during one of my Scribble Ink workshops. Who knew it would be of such comfort to me now?
R.I.P Nan. I love you very, very much xx
NAN: Our Connection to WW2…Our Connection to Italy
It’s August, 1993. Sun beams stretch their arms past powder blue skies and cotton wool clouds, smacking the pavements and drying the grasslands. Cars queue in a militant fashion as their drivers break out into the ambience of summer. I’m running from the top of Bisson Road and down to number 78, as fast as my stick like legs can carry me, and into the arms of Aunty Chris. We embrace and make our way into the house. Cousins ‘bzzzzz’ up and down the hallway, through the kitchen and the back garden, weaving through their nonchalant elders who sip beer and chew chicken to the thud of lovers rock and zouk which soaks through skin and muffles sounds of latest news, and laughter. Panning past the smell of grass and burnt cigarettes, Aunt Chris and I walk into the living room – the heart of the hive… And sitting on her thrown (the side setee adjacent to the TV) is Queen Bee.
Nan sits quietly, merely observing her children, her children’s children and others. I slip from Aunty Chris and purch on the lap of the olive skinned, silver haired signore . I stroke the side of her face, amazed by how different we are in features, but how alike we are in spirit. She tells me stories of her childhood. Sketching out the main events – time away during evacuation, finding love in windrush and wounds in life’s unforseen circumstances. The sounds of others diminuendo as I continue asking questions, and she continues telling stories- turning her living room into a time machine. As she concludes the final scene, all present exchange glares and smiles worth their conversation in gold.
What a shame we only ever do this in summer, but what a privilege it is to all be connected as a result of Helen.