In Loving Memory
On the 5th of January 2015, my grandmother passed away suddenly but peacefully. She was my last grandparent and Dylan’s last great-grandparent still living. Although obviously shocked and saddened by her death, I was comforted by the fact that my Grandma had lived a happy and fulfilling life in her almost 88 years on this planet.
A Brief Biography
Grandma was the fourth child and first daughter born into a family of twelve (yes 12!!) children. Her only other sister was born the following year and then came a succession of seven more boys. As an illustration of the innocence of that era (or perhaps just of Grandma herself), she remembers asking the nurse who came to the family home when her mother was about to give birth, if the nurse could possibly “bring a girl with her this time”.
Typical of a large family in the 1920’s and ‘30’s, they were extremely poor, a kind of poverty that is unimaginable in the first world in the 21st century. Only Grandma and her sister ever had shoes as children – the boys simply went without. Throughout her childhood there was no electricity in the home. From a young age after school she would sell flowers just to add a few extra pennies to the family’s income each week.
However, they were a close and loving family who really did not know any different. They had enough land to grow a large vegetable patch for all the hungry mouths. Grandma always recalled her childhood with warmth and happiness while I would wonder how all the washing could be done for 12 children with no washing machine.
My Grandma, Marj, met my Granddad, George, just after World War Two finished and they were happily married for almost 60 years before his passing a few years ago. She is survived by her three children, three grandchildren (my sisters and I) and four great-grand children (Dylan and his cousins).
Wise, Grateful and Kind
A short history of someone’s life doesn’t really explain who they were or what they really mean to people. Grandma was unreservedly and unashamedly my absolute favourite grandparent. Why? Let me tell you about the real Marj:
Grandma, despite not being able to finish high school, was one of the most intelligent and wise people I have ever met. Until a few months before her passing, she did the crossword puzzle every day. She had a love of books and read prolifically, a love that was passed down to me. It was at Grandma and Granddad’s home that I first read the classic ‘Little Women’ and it was at their home that I read it another four or five times.
Grandma was really good-natured, appreciative and grateful of her life. She always said she was thankful for all the simple things – her family, where she lived and the things she had done and seen in her lifetime. After she celebrated her 80th she would say to us: “every day is a bonus”.
In addition, Grandma was kind and loving. She spent almost 60 years with Granddad and often said to us: “if he had two heads I would have married him”. We always thought it was funny imagining Granddad with two heads. She would go out of her way to help those less fortunate, active in various charities and community endeavours. I very rarely heard her say an unkind word about anyone.
My sisters and I were even luckier than most to experience her kind nature from the unique and privileged position of being her grandchildren. We have a childhood full of fond memories of visits at Grandma and Granddad’s place. Memories such as picking fresh beans and peas from their garden, splashing around with the hose and buckets of water, of building huts out of blankets and cushions in the lounge and being taught how to bake simple treats. It was a wondrous and amazing time.
I have always thought of Grandma as an ‘extraordinary ordinary’ human being. She didn’t change the world, but with her wise, kind and appreciative traits, she made her little corner of it a great place to be.
A Little Message
I get sad when I think that Dylan, who is now almost three, is likely to have no proper memories of his great-grandmother, so to him I have this to say:
Reach for the stars, achieve as much as you can in your life. Become the neuro-surgeon, Olympic athlete, environmental warrior, successful business entrepreneur, rock star or anything else you aspire to.
However, know that it is your character that you will be remembered for. Grandma somehow managed to effortlessly beam her timeless qualities of being wise, appreciative and loving. If you can capture even just a little of your amazing great-grandmother’s spirit and use it to enhance your corner of the world then you will be the man I want you to be.