In memoriam


When I woke up on Saturday morning, it was from a dream that my grandmother had passed away. It was very gentle, very calm. So when my dad rang me on Saturday afternoon to share the news that Nan had died, I somehow already knew.

I’ve written before about Nan and how much she meant to me. Dementia has meant she’s been absent for the past few years, here and not yet here, and although a cliche, her death really was a release. But selfishly, I am still sad. Even though she was gone before, this is so final, and I miss her so much.

I have lots of very happy memories of Nan. She absolutely loved to tidy, and so when she and grandad visited, she’d help me sort out my room. Inevitably it would be messy again by her next visit. She also loved to knit, and made me many a jumper and waistcoat with elaborate cable stitch and inlaid patterns. I still have a pair of cream bedsocks that, even though I never wear, I can’t get rid of.

For someone who didn’t really enjoy food (she had no sense of smell), it’s strange how many of my memories of Nan are associated with it. Her terrible cooking was legendary, from chewy pastry to over-dry fruitcake, as was her ability to buy only the most woolly of apples. She also bought a strange brand of crisps we never saw in any one else’s house – ‘Squirrel’ crisps, cartwheel shaped things that melted and stuck to your tongue. She always had a ‘goody bag’ for when my brother and I visited, from which we could choose sweets that we were usually not allowed at home, exotic things like orange and blackcurrant Chewits. Very strong tea, sterilised milk, custard creams, chocolate cake from a packet, baked beans in front of the TV on her blue enamel table, the same bottle of Advocaat in the cupboard for 20 years. All of these are her.

Yellow roses, a polished dining table, amethysts, a china cabinet full of tea cups: these are also Nan.

I’ve inherited from Nan my freckles, a love of playing the piano and an ability to trip over a match stick. I was I’d inherited her red hair. I hope, one day, that others say I’ve inherited her unconditional kindness, her absolute love of family and her unerring belief in the goodness of people.


8 responses »

  1. Helen,

    I’m so sorry to read of the loss of your beloved Nan. Your memories made me smile. I understand the cliche of release – having been through a similar situation with my own Grandma, but it barely mitigates the sadness. I think it’s lovely that you had a visit from her in passing. She wanted you to know her transition was peaceful. Hugs to you.

  2. What a beautiful tribute to your Nan. And how interesting that you dreamed that she passed. I always think that means you had a really special connection, but that might be the Californian in me talking.

    I’m so sorry you lost her! But I’m so glad the two of you had each other for so long and were so close.

  3. Oh Helen, I’m sorry I’m only just seeing this. What a beautiful post. I’m sorry for the loss of your Nan. Grandmothers are such special people in our lives and losing them is always hard.

    You might have already seen the post I wrote at the time but I had a very similar experience when my own Nan passed away, nearly four years ago, only ten days before I was due to fly home to Oz for a wedding. I knew she was unwell, possibly in a lot of pain. My mother seemed to think she was hanging on for me to get home. I talked to the photo I had of her on my dresser before I went to bed one night, telling her I loved her and that I understood if she didn’t want to hang on, she could go, I’d be ok. We went to sleep but the phone rang about 20 minutes later and it was my Dad with the sad news. I assumed it had happened hours ago and they were just getting around to telling me, but no, it had happened “about 20 minutes ago” (in Dad’s words).

    So what I’m trying to say is that the people we love and have a special connection with….it isn’t imagined. You knew and so did she. I hope you are comforted by your happy memories of her, she sounds like a real character 🙂 x

    • Thanks Phil. It’s interesting that you had a similar experience with your nan. I guess it proves how much of a bond we have with our loved ones, even if we don’t always realise it.

  4. Pingback: In which both goodbyes and hellos are said | Postcards from the Edge (of the West Country)

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