My dear fellow-heavy-hearts,
Loosing a grandparent is never easy. Rationalising their elderliness becomes difficult and frustrating when trying to come to terms with your grief. Loosing my last living grandparent (famously known as ‘Gran-nan’ by my cousins) has by far been the challenge of 2015. However, I’m trying to take comfort in the fact that I was privileged to know her. I’m relieved that she is no longer suffering, and am inspired by the wonderful impressions and memories she made for so many people. At her memorial service, I dedicated the following to this remarkable, magical superhero:
“For those of you who knew Gran Nan, you’re aware of the challenges she faced towards the end, and like me, while you might find it hard saying goodbye, you’ll also have a sense of peace and comfort in knowing that she is now at rest, and her legacy will live on through the fond memories we’ll treasure and the philosophies she championed, such as valuing education, being humane to your fellow human, maintaining your independence, harnessing your power as a leader, knowing when to let your hair down and boogie to reggae, and embracing the joy that comes with an unashamedly loud, endless and infectious laugh!
I’d made a habit of giving Gran Nan a call on Sunday afternoons. Although conversations became more difficult over time, hearing her voice and being able to share with her all the things I was up to; hearing how interested and happy she was for me (even if she didn’t know was I was on about), and her interest in my studies, made me happy. I was excited to know that I made her proud.
And likewise, I was proud of Gran Nan. I’m glad I got to tell her that when I saw her for the last time.
She looked at me and said: “I’m not well.” I said; “I know” and took her hand. As she was falling asleep, I told her I loved her, that now I’m older, I can appreciate how hard it must’ve been to leave Jamaica so young, move to a colder, greyer country to start again, and raise 5 children who have all gone on to achieve great things.
I said I’d miss her, again, that I love her, I’m proud of her, and I thanked her. Gran Nan opened her eyes, looked at me and said: “Ok. I’ll see you after,” before going back to sleep. Deep down I knew that was our goodbye, and I’m so grateful I had that time.
Here’s a little something you might not know about me: I have a little ‘quirk’ (one of many) — an obsession with the meanings of names, and how true that meaning might be to someone’s personality; As if a name is preordained—we don’t choose them, they choose us.
When I was thinking of what to say in this tribute; staring and pondering the blank page, I defaulted to leading with my ‘quirk’, and am pleased that I did, because I had the privilege of discovering that the name Phyllis is traditionally betrothed to a woman willing to give herself up for those she loves, and of more recent times, its definition has evolved to become the name of; ‘The best daughter, sister, mother, wife and friend anyone could ask for! Always there when you need her and will go above and beyond what is asked of her. A woman with the name Phyllis is selfless, compassionate, shy and not afraid to put all she has into her work’. Such a name can even be used in the following way: “I’m so glad I have a Phyllis.”
Gran Nan certainly lived up to her name, and it is with a head held high, and a heart made whole, I can say: I’m so glad I had, and in many ways still have, a Phyllis. Goodnight Gran Nan. I’ll see you after.”
I’d like to thank my loved ones, family, friends and networks who have been so supportive during this difficult time. Your emails, texts, cards and hugs have salvaged the smiles from my tears.
Isn’t the power of writing fantastic? The ability to lay all cards on the table and feel that indescribable weight lift from burdened shoulders once the ‘publish’ button has been clicked, or the full stop has been scribed…it’s a feeling unlike any other.