Sunday, 23 January 2011

A Quarter of a Century On...

In January 1986, my grandmother on my mother’s side was taken ill at the time of her 76th birthday. She was taken into hospital and, initially, we thought she would pull through. However, it was clear she was deteriorating and I will never forget going to see her in Aberdeen Royal Infirmary one Friday evening on the way to the pub. There were tubes coming out of almost every orifice and she looked dreadful. She did not know who I was, or my mother who was naturally distraught at seeing her own mother in such a way. I was too upset to go to the pub that evening and my thoughts were that my grandmother wouldn’t see out the weekend. However, she was tougher than I had given her credit for. She survived that weekend and it seemed to my innocent eyes that she would recover sufficiently to get home within a few weeks. When I visited her again with my mother a few days later I was pleasantly surprised. Gone were the tubes and she was lying in bed sedated but looking quite peaceful. She smiled when she saw my mother and I and we held her hand. She spoke very quietly but managed to ask me how Pat was - Mrs Smith was six months pregnant with our first child at the time. My mother and I left the hospital quite uplifted. Granny looked as if she had won the battle and was on the way to recovery. I went home, told Pat the news, and was somewhat disappointed that she didn’t appear to share my optimism. When the telephone rang at 7.00am the following morning the reason for Pat’s reticence became clear. My grandmother had died during the night. The reason they had taken away all the tubes and medical paraphernalia was there was nothing else they could do for her. As is the way in these situations, they wanted her to die with some dignity. She passed away in the early hours of 4 February 1986.

I had never been to a funeral before, being just seven years old when my grandfather died in 1969 and therefore deemed too young to attend such occasions. My father’s parents had died years before. I wasn’t even born when his father died and was just a babe in arms when his mother passed away. So going to Aberdeen Crematorium was a new experience for me. By now, Pat was beginning to show a large bump, which was hardly surprising, but she came to the service to support my mother and I. It was one of those rare events where my mother’s family gathered and, consequently, there were people there I had not seen for years. In fact, not since the wake at my grandfather’s funeral more than sixteen years before.

Like anyone who experiences the loss of a loved one, it was a tough day, particularly for my mother. She would have liked her mother to have seen her first great-grandchild but, sadly, it wasn’t to be. Today would have been my grandmother’s 101st birthday. A quarter of a century has passed since her passing but her memory lives on. A lost has happened in those twenty-five years and now I am a grandparent and my mother is a great grandmother. My grandmother can look down with some satisfaction knowing her legacy lives on through my grandchildren Jack and Hannah. I hope they are like the great great grandmother they never knew - and never lose the kindness and love that shone throughout her life.

3 comments:

Adullamite said...

A good post.

Joanna Jenkins said...

What a sad but beautiful tribute. My guess is that she's looking down and smiling.
Cheers, jj

Mike Smith said...

Thank you both. My mother has quite rightly pointed out that my grandmother would actually be a great great grandmother to Jack, Hannah and Ava. It's not easy getting old...