This is for sure going to be one of the hardest journal entries i have ever written. I have wanted to at many points in the last few weeks but i didn’t feel i had the emotional or physical strength to do it justice. The pain was just too great…
I didn’t realise exactly how lucky i was growing up. I have always had two mothers, my mum and Gram. I lived in the house opposite my grandmother from the day i was born. When i was eleven my granddad passed away and since then i have lived in the same house as her. My bedroom has always been the room above hers. Through the years i have heard her prayers, almost every sneeze, laugh or conversation she ever had. At night i could hear her ‘snoring like a trooper’ as my uncle put it. The emotion surrounding the absence of these normal everyday sounds that i have heard most my life is indescribable. I feel empty.
It’s really strange how you overlook the importance of people you see every day. In my whole life i can probably count on my hands the amount of times i didn’t see her for more than a week. You don’t realise that one day that person may not be around anymore. In the last few weeks people have said to me, at least she lived a good long life or at least it wasn’t a shock because at that age everybody is going to go at some point. I just looked at them like they must be out of their minds because it absolutely did shock me and i definitely did not see it coming. Some naive part of me couldn’t imagine my world without her. I know this life is temporary and it hasn’t even been two years since i lost my uncle to cancer but Gram? She was untouchable in my eyes.
We lost her on the 15th of May. Finding out was probably the one singular most painful moment of my existence. The pain was so strong it was practically physical. I can’t even talk much about that right now. I am far from over it but i am fighting to heal. All i can say is it’s an experience you never really know how you will handle until it happens to you.
The small moments that now feel so precious
I feel so lucky to have so many lovely memories of Gram. One day i will tell my children all about her and what an amazing woman she was. Nobody can take my memories away from me, forever precious and alive in my mind and heart.
Often in the evenings i would sit beside Gram watching television and subconsciously end up with her hand in my hand. I twirled her wedding ring and loved the feel of her delicate elderly skin. Gram had lovely hands that were very feminine and small. I can still picture them in my mind; i hope i never forget the details.
It may sound strange but i will forever remember the way she chopped vegetables in preparation for dinner. She would sit on the sofa with her special knife and chop each lady finger with her delicate technique, taking her time and moving the knife graciously. I used to lie in her bed watching her and found it so hypnotising and relaxing as she chopped away. She found it quite amusing that i loved watching her do something so normal, but to me it was Gram’s way.
Sometimes when i came downstairs to her room she would say to me in Punjabi “Oh look my princess is here”, i loved it when she said that. She is the only woman in my life that i would almost always kiss on the lips; i don’t even kiss my own mother on the lips. The thought makes me smile, the way she would pucker her lips as if to say “give me a kiss”. Best part is, when i did, she would always say thank you. I thought that was one of the cutest most endearing things she did. She thanked me for my kisses. I always said “Gram you don’t have to thank me”, but again with the next kiss i would receive a thank you and it would make me smile. That was Gram’s way.
In her old age Gram had very fine almost fluff like hair. She made a peranda, a hair piece made out of wool that you plait in with your own hair to create a thicker plait. She loved the way i plaited it into her hair for her. She said the plait would stay put for as long as she needed. I would give anything to do that for her now.
I recently found a picture i took of Gram probably around the beginning of the year when it was still very cold. In the picture she is sitting on her bed literally surrounded by her duvet pulled up to her chin, looking very snug and content as she watches TV. I don’t know if she even knew that i took that picture. It reminds me of the evenings we sat together with my mum and laughed stupidly at jokes. There were times my mum would tell dirty jokes and Gram would get embarrassed, giggling behind her hand. Her reactions always made me laugh. It was like a chain reaction when we got started! Sometimes we laughed so much we could barely breathe. If i close my eyes and try, i can hear the sound of her laughter. I don’t ever want to forget that sound.
Talking of laughter, i used to love making Gram laugh when she didn’t have her false teeth in. She reminded me of a baby and looked super cute! She used to try not to give in but i guess trying not to laugh only made the urge more intense. Plus she did have her crazy granddaughter talking gibberish at her, how could she resist. When she would finally give in and laugh, i would respond by giving her big kisses and telling her exactly how cute she looked! I know she secretly loved it.
There is so many of these moments i will never forget. Moments that were my everyday life, but somehow have now become my memories.
Most recent memorable story
Not so long ago i decided to take Gram to a shopping centre. She didn’t get out much because of her mobility issues so i knew she would enjoy it. My mum and i navigated her wheelchair through the shops and people as she chatted away about what she was hoping to find.
After many hours of shopping and a quick stop for food, we started looking around in the last shop for the day; i continued to place the items that she liked in her lap like we had been doing most of the day. We proceeded to the checkouts and then made our way out to the car park. As i helped her into the car she grabbed something out of her lap and casually asked me ‘is this your scarf?” i replied “no, where did you get that Gram?” Her eyes became confused and slowly widened with horror as she realised that she had just become the oldest shop lifter ever! I literally couldn’t stop laughing at her expression. Bless her, i couldn’t help but find her innocent almost child-like reaction to the situation beyond hilarious. She then got really cross that i wouldn’t take her all the way back to return the scarf. I probably didn’t make it any easier by teasing her and laughing, but by the time we got home i made her see the funny side of it all. Plus i promised her that on the day of judgement id say it was my fault because i didn’t take her back. At this she called me crazy in Punjabi.
I now have that scarf stored away with her other items that i will put in an air tight box to contain her scent. That scarf will always make me smile.
When Gram smiled her face lit up like the moon. Her silent grin is one i will always remember. Her whole essence radiated love; she was everybody’s mother or sister. People came to her with their problems and respected her opinion when she gave it. I saw people mourn her loss from the heart and have been told countless times by many that she had been a mother figure to them. Even when people hurt her she never said a bad word to them. It used to irritate me and i would always say to her “why don’t you say…” Her response was “forget them, leave it to God”, her patience was admirable. If there is anything i should learn from her it is that for sure.
My whole life I’ve loved her dearly, but the sad truth for me is that it took me losing her to truly see how much i cherished her. The quote “you don’t know what you have until it’s gone” makes perfect sense to me now. After we lost her the first stage of my grief was wishing i could have her back. If only just for a day so i could shower her with love, spoil and pamper her completely. I would make that orange chocolate sponge cake she wanted to teach me, why did i think i had all the time in the world? If only i could have just one day.
Gram’s love and presence in my life is one that i will never ever be able to replace. The love of a grandparent, having spent your life by their side is unique. I used to spend hours asking her questions about the years she spent back home in Kenya and i wanted to know everything about our family history. She always answered my questions with enthusiasm and animated tales from her own memories. The best stories were about my dad and uncles when they were growing up.
She told me one about my dad when he was barely a year old, 63 years ago which made her only 18 back then. He was out in the garden with her playing in the sunshine. She said it was very hot that summer and she sent ‘the boy’ (her servant) to go fetch some water for my dad to play in. After a while she said ‘the boy’ was taking so long she went inside to see what was going on. When she returned she found to her horror, my dad sitting on the floor with a fully grown black centipede in his hand, crunching away its head merrily. She screamed and grabbed him lifting him in the air upside down and clearing his mouth! Yuck that story always made me squeamish but i loved to hear it because of the way she told it. I will miss her stories dearly.
I can’t bring myself to delve into the end too much. I’d rather plaster over and block most of it out, I’m not sure if i ever will address a lot of it.
But the final memory i am willing to share is of my final conversation with Gram. The last time i spoke to Gram was over the phone, she was conscious to a degree and kept asking me how i had grown so much so quickly. I didn’t understand what she meant at the time and my responses were mainly regarding her getting better quickly and coming home. Later my mum told me that the previous night big-mummy had dreamt of my granddad, he was telling her that everything was going to be ok. In the dream she had seen me as a young child playing and running around. In the dream she kept telling me “don’t run too fast, you will hurt yourself”.
Thinking of this literally breaks my heart into tiny pieces. I know she loved me and i was in her heart and mind until the very end, the same way she will be in mine forever.
I can’t say no more about that…
In the early stages of my grief i had this strange sense of needing to know what she was experiencing. Of course i knew her body was still here, but where was she? Where had she gone? When she was alive she told me everything, from new foods she had tasted to a new program she watched that day to what the lady down the road rang her and said. So what about now? I prayed for her to come in my dreams and tell me what she was seeing, what she was doing. I guess I’m not praying hard enough.
It has started raining really hard outside as i write this last section. I can hear the thunder rumbling in the distance and i can’t think of a better atmosphere for me to finish this in.
I will forever miss my grandmother, my mum, my Gram. I have been told that i should be grateful for having had her so close to me in my life. I eternally am. I can’t express how strong that feeling is within me.
I will heal Gram, i will get better, and i will accomplish everything you dreamt for me. I love you, without limitation, up and beyond, forever.
Until we meet again and i am able to hold your hand in mine. May you dwell amongst the angels in heaven and be free from all pain. May you be with big-daddy and uncle in the highest rank of Jannah (heaven).
“How lucky am i to have had something that made saying goodbye so hard”
From Winnie the Pooh