My grandmother made her rainbow journey back into the light a few nights ago. She was a month away from turning 97.
My father sat with her, holding her hand, as her breathing faltered, then stopped in the twilight. He tells me this with tears. “I‘ve never been with someone as they died,” he says, crying, soft, still. I am proud of him for bearing witness, for tending the woman who had been his mother-in-law since he was 21. Proud of him for being a son to a woman who wasn’t his mother, but was the grandmother of his children.
I’ve shared about my grandmother before here with you many times.
She, the one who taught me one of the secrets of the elders. She, the one who put the grand in grandmother, who rode see-saws like a whooping cowgirl when she was a much younger ninety (!!!) year old.
My grandmother was a Grand Old Dame. She taught me so much about the keeping and cultivating of happiness. She was naughty and irreverent and sharp as a whip. She carried sexiness and brashness into her nineties. She flirted with men three decades younger than her. She dressed better than me every day of her life.
Some of my favourite memories of her:
14 years ago, when I first brought Chris home to meet my family. She proceeds to tell him over lunch about the new black bra she just bought and lifted her shirt to show him, laughing raucously.
Having to have her ladder confiscated from her because she’d climb the pawpaw trees everyday at precarious angles to get some fruit for breakfast.
At her ninetieth birthday bash, she rolled up in a vintage classic. She flashes her legs as she get out, dressed up like the queen with pearls. We wolfwhistle. She lifts her skirt higher:
“I’ve got the best legs in Proserpine! Always have!”
She was right.
But it wasn’t just her showgirl sense of humour, her refusal to grow old, her determination to live life on her own terms.
She was more than that. She was a consummate carer, an earthy earth angel.
She still worked three days a week up until just a moment or so ago, volunteering at the op shop. She was intuitive and knew everything that was happening for everyone before they breathed a word of it.
She had a way with children and adults alike. She coaxed them with lollies and smiles and laughter and compliments. She cared for everyone within arms reach. She touched thousands of lives with her kindness, her spark and her smile.
I made this artwork about her many years ago:
Whenever I’d mention I was from Proserpine, people would invariably know my grandmother, that lovely happy lady at the op shop.
And of course, you know, she was human too.
She was “splendidly imperfect” as the author SARK would say.
As she would always remind me,
there’s a little bit of bad and a little bit of good in everyone.
She began her journey of dying not long after Beth was born. When Beth was just a few weeks old we decided bundle up our precious bundles for one last hurrah with her. It took us days in the car to see her. And it was worth it just to lay her newest great-grandchild in her arms. A crying Beth fell fast asleep there in the embrace of ancient kin.
Then opened her eyes… soft, awake, comfortable again.
My love and I talked about the joyous homecoming Marion would be having this morning. How she’d be embraced by her parents, her large clan of siblings, her two husbands, her two sons, her grandson (my brother) but most of all her beloved dog Toby who will be just beside himself to be by his one true love and light’s side again. Toby was a consummate pest to everyone except her. He nipped at all heels except hers. Marion was his queen. She was everyone’s queen.
Granny & her beloved sister Lucy… in the nineties…
and not long before Lucy passed…
ninety odd years of sisterly love…
There must be one heck of a party happening up there.
She was the triple of my goddess. With her gone, I’m no longer the maiden.
And as much as we knew she was dying… as much as I know she was ready to go… as much as I know she had the greatest innings a person could have…
Still, it is a different world without her here.
A quake has taken place in my world. A hole where her strength, compassion, vivid spirit resided so loudly and unequivocally.
What is a world without my grandmother?
A great tree has fallen in my forest.
So grief weaves its soft ways throughout my days. I know this old song by now. I’ve lived it many times before.
There is nothing to do but be with it.
There is no way to self-help your way out of grief.
Just listen. Let it weave its way through your life.
If you turn away from it, it will wait. It will wait until you cannot turn away from it anymore.
So I try and take it slower. Give the stillness a chance to heal my heart.
Give my breath a chance to be caught.
Give the forest some time to mend.
Gran, we will miss your sweetness, your silliness, your humour and the way you showered us with love.
But we will always, always be blessed that you were born and that you lived.