In Love and Celebration
Posted June 18, 2012on:
We don’t talk about old people very much. We don’t always take the time to listen to them or to understand about their lives and what they have experienced. We are sometimes slow to appreciate them as individuals, and what we can learn from them.
My Nan passed away at the beginning of this month and her funeral is on Friday. She was a very old, much-loved lady and lived a full and happy life. I am unbelievably lucky to have had her in my life so long, to have known her as an adult, for her to have seen me grow up, fall in love and get married; for her to have held my newborn babies in her arms and watch them develop into the fun, independent, loving children they have become. So for me, this post is not so much about sadness, as a celebration of the many happy memories and a recognition of what I have learned from her.
Living less than a mile from our family home, my Nan was constantly around when I was growing up and was an integral part of our family life. Whenever I visited her home as a child, she always had lemonade and biscuits in her pantry, a garden to run around in, endless patience for playing board games and jobs for me to help with, whether it was drying the dishes whilst she washed up, or, when I was older, mowing her lawn. She was essentially very humble, easy to be around, almost impossible to offend, appreciative of being surrounded by her family and being part of our lives.
As a teenager, my Nan never judged or told me what to do. When I had boyfriend trouble, she gently and wisely pointed out that “whatever is meant to be will be,” providing me with great comfort and reassurance. When I finally passed my driving test, it was to her house that I drove first. She was as delighted as I was, although as I drove away, I wondered why she was waving quite so frantically…until I realised that I was driving in the dark without my headlights on!
Family Christmases were always fun and always shared with my Nan. She played every game with great enthusiasm until she was well into her 80s and even her 90s…spin the plate, murder in the dark…she would try anything and had a tremendous sense of fun. Her ability to laugh at herself, to enjoy banter with others and to have fun was undimmed until the very end of her life. She was always interested in people and delighted in getting to know my friends, who also called her Nanny, as I did. At my brother’s wedding, she gamely danced with my brothers’ friends and let herself be twirled around the dance floor…undoubtedly dining out on the experience for many years to come! My Nan was generous and always wanted to contribute. Home-made marmalade and chutney, taking my whole extended family out for Sunday lunch, expanding the invitation as the size of our family grew; lending her car to her grandchildren before any of us could afford vehicles of our own.
My Nan was consistently keen to learn new things, to challenge herself and try different experiences. She learnt to drive when she was 60 and continued for nearly thirty years until her sight started to fail her. She loved doing crossword puzzles and writing verse and even took up the local library’s offer of internet lessons in her 80s. She never felt that anything was beyond her and was willing to give anything a try. She was physically tough and cheated serious accidents so many times: in her 80s she slipped whilst getting off a train and became trapped between the train and the platform, yet emerged unhurt with barely any bruises. Widowed whilst still in her late 60s, she learned to become strongly independent and enjoyed a very happy old age, making new friends as well as treasuring existing relationships. She lived on her own until she was almost 95, when she broke her hip and was no longer able to look after herself.
The staff at the residential home where my Nan lived for the last three and a half years of her life not only provided her with excellent care, they also loved her. Right until the end of her life, she retained the ability to be interested in people, a vulnerability that endeared her to those around her and an appreciation of everything that she had, especially her family. One of the memories I treasure most is how much my children loved their Great Nanny Mo and how they clambered on her lap to hug and kiss her, even when she had become very frail. She was extraordinary and yet, in many ways, also very ordinary, a beloved Nan who was hugely appreciative of the good things that she had been blessed with. She was my Nan and a wonderful one at that.
There may be a few tears on Friday, but above all else there will be happiness of memories recalled, bonds of love and family that endure and a celebration of a life well lived. I think she’d be pretty delighted with that.