My granny died on Saturday morning. She was 95 and had been getting increasingly ill over the past few weeks.
She was a marvellous woman; loving, kind, exceedingly generous, full of joy and smart as a whip up to the end. My dad was one of her 8 children, I am one of her 35 grandchildren and my children are among her 32 great-grandchildren. (I think those numbers are right; perhaps I should add error margins!)
We used to all gather at her house every Sunday afternoon when I was a child. We'd run around the field behind the house, and eat beef sandwiches and shop-bought cakes; which was a treat for me since we only ever got home-made at home. Granny lived in the same house all her life. My Granda, her husband, died 4 years ago. They had been married for 64 years. Two of her brothers never married and lived their whole lives in the house with her, Granda and their family.
Over the past few years Granny become more frail and my aunt, who continued to live at home when she married and had children, has taken such good care of her. Their house had an open door policy and people were regularly calling in and were always made welcome. Granny loved visitors; knowing what you were up to and where you were going. She enjoyed seeing us dressed up, always saying 'health to enjoy' when we showed off a new outfit. Most of all, she loved to see all the children who came to visit, or my aunt's own grandchildren whom she also cared for. Granny somehow managed to remember all of us and know where we were living and what we were doing with our lives.
Gordon wasn't around. He's on a conference in Korea. But my sister flew in from London, and went with me and the children, back to Granny's house for the wake. Lady had been to my other Granda's wake so knew what to expect, but I explained to Thomas that my Granny's body would be in an open coffin in her bedroom and we could go in to see her. This we all did, and they were not in the least bit fazed. I was upset to see her, especially when I went into the living room and saw the empty space where her chair always sat beside the range cooker.
Duncan didn't like the house full of people, which is only to be expected, so he spent most of the time outdoors. Thankfully, the weather was great. Lady and Thomas also ran around in the garden (which used to be the field I played in) with the other children who were there. I had lots of help looking after Duncan, especially from my Dad (as always) and my brother's girlfriend, who took all my children to her house for a few hours leaving me peace to talk to the relatives, friends and neighbours who were gathered or just paying a short visit. My sister was among those on tea duty. Endless trays of sandwiches and buns were dispensed along with a never ending supply of tea. It used to be worse; I can remember wakes I was at as a child, where there'd be dishes stacked with cigarettes for the visitors!
The funeral was held the next day. The church was packed. A cousin from my mum's side of the family was kind enough to stay in my car with Duncan while he watched a DVD. He'd been crying 'no go into church' when we arrived and there was no way I was going to force him into that big, scary building. Thomas made me laugh during the ceremony; the priest said the line 'where we live forever...' and Thomas said incredulously, 'We live forever?!' Anyway, for a boy not used to church, he behaved wonderfully. In fact all 3 children were marvellous the whole 2 days, and I told them when we were driving home how proud I was of them. I had so many people comment on what lovely children they are. Many of my relatives delighted in Duncan too and commented on how well he's doing. I was a bit concerned by his shouting, especially when he shouted a rude phrase in his discomfort or frustration. Mostly he was very happy, if extremely mobile, and I (and my helpers) did a fair bit of running after him to be sure he stayed away from the open path to the road.
It was sad saying goodbye to Granny. She was a big part of our lives for lots of us. She was always there. But I take comfort in remembering her, and knowing she was happy, in spite of the hard times, hard work and bereavements she lived through. She loved her family, loved a celebration, and will be remembered for a long time to come by great many people.