Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye, you were bigger than the whole sky.
She died. My Nan. The indomitable matriarch. The mother of my mother. The Yorkshire tea-drinking aficionado. The one I somehow thought would live forever. The bearer of such, deep and gentle, dignified and unwavering love for me, my sister and our children.
And now she’s gone.
I’ve never felt such an absence, such a ground-shifting chasm before in my life. When my mum died, it was too shocking, too traumatic to comprehend, I barely felt anything. I just sleepwalked numbed and disassociated for so many years after. But this time, this time, I am present with the pain in the way that I was present with her as she slowly and gently spent her final days here with us.
We held her hands and stroked her face and told her how much she meant to us, how we loved her, how irreplaceable she was, how we could never repay for her all that she gave us throughout our lives. We sat silently, reverently and watched as she sunk deeper and deeper into her final sleep. I know that death is not always this way, but she died so very peacefully and exactly as she always told us she wanted to, “Like my mother, who went in her sleep.”
And now here we are without her. The great, unyielding tide has shifted and we’re now left treading water, trying to figure out how to be and who we are without her steady, devoted and sometimes-demanding presence in our lives.
In between normal life, trying to be An Adult, and choosing coffins and flowers and music that, in 7 days time will be played at her funeral, I am allowing myself to not only cry but to keen; a word that originates from the Gaelic Celtic tradition in which women would gather and wail in grief at a funeral. Oh, I have been wailing.
And then come the quiet moments where I sit and stare and notice that just outside the window, two bright-breasted robins keep joining each other on the branch of a tree opposite, mirroring my stillness and contemplation.
I find myself wondering if one of the robins is my Nan? The other my Mum? Or maybe one is my Poppa— my Grandad? I like to think so but who knows.
Who knows what is beyond this life. I have no unwavering, abiding faith to hold on to. No belief in a God or angels to steady me as I stumble up and over the hills of grief.
But I have my Nan’s enduring love. A love that I have known and felt for all of my 42 years on this planet. What a wonderful and magical gift, to not only know that I was loved so very much, but for her to have quietly and compassionately taught me how to love others—to be able to pass that gift on through the generations to come.
Goodbye, our sweet Nan. We’ve made sure you’ve got your handbag with you and in it we’ve hidden some ginger biscuits and teabags.
You were so special to us.