Despite wondering many times over the last few years what I would.. will.. am doing right now, its still a struggle to even type these words out.
My last remaining grandparent, my grandmother, Elizabeth Shaw, died last night.
She had been suffering for a long time with dementia and had last year finally been moved out in to a care home to make her more comfortable. Apparently in just the last few days after going off her food did she finally pass after a very long battle.
I can't thank my brother, sister-in-law and father enough for helping to look after her prior to that. Though physically distant and thus unable to, I don't think I would have been able to cope even if I had been more local.
Dementia really is an awful thing, back when I was visiting them all more often during my university years, we had started to see it take hold. Forgetting and repeating conversations, miss-identifying those of us in the house, making dangerous mistakes like trying to put an electrical kettle on the gas hob. Its so both frustrating, disheartening and so saddening that there's nothing that can be done to stop it.
You end up wanting to distance yourself, just so you don't overwrite in your mind the image of the person as you remember them with what they are then. And that distancing probably only makes it worse for them, but its an unavoidable feeling that I think is part of being human and clinging to those cherished memories in the hope it can stave off reality. Foolish that might be but its the sentimental foolishness and I can't ever blame anyone else for that and so I guess I shouldn't be too hard on myself either.
And the memories of her are very fond. Growing up she was very close to both myself and my brother. Living in the same house (with a soft partition of the ground floor and basement being her's and the rest of us on the first and second floor), meant she was always close by to help look after us if our parents were busy. And even after my parents separated she continued to be there for us both on the holidays when we visited our dad. She was a strong pillar of support during the early years of getting used to my mum's new relationship with our step-father.
Having risen by father mostly by herself after her only husband, my grandfather, died following an illness, and having worked to run the family house as a seaside guest house to pay off the mortgage, she was an amazingly kind hearted and hard working women.
She cared deeply for myself and my brother and while a keen influence on us both being relatively well behaved and polite, was never stuffy or too strict with us. Just persistent until we'd learned.
It's from her that I've gained everything from a love of fish and chips for a Saturday sit down lunch time, to tea from an early age. The number of memories of her taking us to the parks and the beach are too many to count. The amount she did for us were a debt too huge to ever be repaid.
It's these thoughts I've tried to keep with me as her illness took hold over these last few years and its those I'll hold on to now myself as I prepare myself to say good bye to her. And while that is a few days away, for now at least, I can thank her.
Thank you Grannie, I'll miss you.
1925 - 2015