It's now a year to the day since a very special person to me passed away after a painful and tough ordeal with cancer.
It seems much longer than one year ago but I suppose time drifts slowly when you miss someone so dearly.
I wanted to share with you the words I spoke at my grandma's funeral. She was, to me, the parent my father never was.
When grandma became ill, and even before that in fact, she always said to me, “Don’t be frightened if you see me after I’m gone, because I’ll be watching out for you”. She always believed that: to be absent from the body, is to be present with the lord, and when the dust returns to earth, the spirit returns to God, who gave it.
Now, when she said that to me, I never believed it as it goes against what I believe to be possible. But by having this belief in a life after death and the supernatural, it gives this incomparable reassurance and sense of pain relief that no amount of Annadin Extra could ever give you. And it’s because you don’t want her existence to just stop. You want the comfort of thinking that she is in a better place.
And I think that’s what makes this belief and religion still so important in contemporary society.
As a family, we are looking at the timing of her death as a dark blessing. She’d been through a lot of pain in the last year or so of her life, but she’ll never ever have to go through all the pain that was yet to come. She died peacefully at home with her family whilst living a relatively normal life. And I know for sure that that’s what she would’ve wanted, rather than in a hospital surrounded by strangers and wires. And although we are all devastated at this time, I do believe that time is a great healer. Yes, I know it’s a cliché but it’s a cliché for a reason; because it’s true.
But the death of a close relative is like a scar of a wound; it will always remain and that will definitely be the case with Eileen as her character and love made her unforgettable as the entrance song suggested. But the more you scratch the wound, the more it irritates you.
And I think this poem by David Harkins sums up how she would want us to think of her death:
She Is Gone
You can shed tears that she is gone Or you can smile because she has lived
You can close your eyes and pray that she will come back Or you can open your eyes and see all that she has left
Your heart can be empty because you can't see her Or you can be full of the love that you shared
You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday Or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday
You can remember her and only that she is gone Or you can cherish her memory and let it live on
You can cry and close your mind, be empty and turn your back Or you can do what she would want: smile, open your eyes, love and go on.
- David Harkins
So as a person, what was she like? She had a great sense of humour about her. In fact we were still having a laugh the night before she passed away. She was a fighter; she was determined to fight the cancer and live for a long time and help the family get out of the crisis that we find ourselves in.
She didn’t stay for the duration but she certainly lasted much longer than any person would have with the strength that the cancer had reduced her to. She always continued buying clothes and other items saying she’d use them when she got better. Unfortunately she never did. But, she had this bizarre addiction-like attitude towards Avon and the repurchasing of items that she didn’t like, no matter what I advised her. She had a hatred of water, especially showers and swimming. Many a time she would recall her swimming teacher, Mrs Slack, threatening to push her in if she didn’t get in herself.
But most of all, she was probably the most kind, generous and selfless person I have and ever will meet. Without a doubt, she would give away her last penny if someone less fortunate than herself had needed it. Sometimes, her trust in others is something I couldn’t understand and was misplaced, as I saw that people, sometimes her closest friends, would take advantage of her good nature. But throughout her working, social and family life she earned respect and much love as well.
Also, you really didn’t want to get on the wrong side of her in arguments as I think many people found out including my grandfather during their 56 years of marriage and I certainly did on numerous occasions. It wasn’t vicious in any way. We just both knew the right answer but came out with different conclusions.
In some ways, I think that’s what made us such good friends, as well as having that special family bond. A high proportion of my childhood playtime memories are with her. She looked after me before I joined school and then again every half-term and end-of-term holiday and then also when she moved into my family home around three years ago.
We shared many happy hours together and reminisced in these later in life. I vividly remember once when we laughed so much that the next day, it had brought on an angina attack. It wasn’t funny at the time but thankfully we can laugh about it now.
And she was so supportive of everything that I did. Right from me wanting to go to watch the Chuckle Brothers live when I was about seven then right up until learning to drive, she took a keen interest in everything I did and everything that I wanted to talk to her about. Even if it wasn’t of particular social interest to her she would listen, be engaged by it and support me in it.
I remember we would sit for hours and talk about anything or listen to songs that I liked in the hope that she would like them too. And she did. There was nothing you could do to stop her rhythm when she liked a song. By the time I had finished with her, she had developed a liking for an obscure range of genres including Cotton Eyed Joe by the Rednex.
Since her death I have passed my driving theory test and become an official ambassador for the Holocaust Educational Trust, a charity which both she and I were hugely passionate about. I only wish she were here to celebrate these achievements with me. And that will be the thing I most miss; her just not being there.
And now I speak directly to you grandma.
As one of my first and best friends, you introduced me to a life enriched by your love and warmth.
You helped shape the way I feel about the world and my place in it today.
Your confidence in me helped me to believe in myself.
And your praise and respect enabled me to appreciate my own worth.
You guided without control and encouraged without pressure.
You gave your best … to bring out the best in me.
You taught me to think my own thoughts and to follow my own dreams,
To be proud of my achievements and accepting of my mistakes,
To find peace in each sunset and joy in each sunrise … To love my life
You knew what to say and how to listen,
To help me through the rough times and to make the good times even more beautiful.
I took it for granted that you’d be there when I needed you … and you always were.
As I grew older I made many new friends.
But of all the kindness they have shown me, your understanding is still the deepest, your companionship the warmest and your support the most generous.
On behalf of your family, friends and many acquaintances I want to thank you for giving us the pleasure of knowing you and being loved by you.
Thank you for your tireless support and work ethic throughout your life. Your loving parents Mini and George would be so proud of the daughter that they had raised. You are gone but never forgotten.
God looked around his garden And found an empty place, He then looked down upon the earth And saw your tired face. He put his arms around you And lifted you to rest. God's garden must be beautiful He always takes the best. He knew that you were suffering He knew you were in pain. He knew that you would never Get well on earth again. He saw the road was getting rough And the hills were hard to climb. So he closed your weary eyelids And whispered, 'Peace be Thine'. It broke our hearts to lose you But you didn't go alone, For part of us went with you The day God called you home.
I love you grandma. God bless and night-night.
My grandma holding me as a baby. Look at those glasses!