Jump back two generations as if looking in a mirror echoes of your life reverberating in my own emotions tangled and unravelling, faced with loss memories that linger longer than lifetimes family history in my blood, my bones somehow knew. We are similar, you and I connected in ways unseen. In looking back I notice everything. I remember your home, the one most often visited. I could draw it from memory, every inch speaking volumes about you, your life brimming with details like the Noah’s Ark painting by the kitchen door, the cool black tiles on my toes as you busy yourself getting tea, digging out gluten-filled treats purchased for our visit and still we want to try your rice cakes. You let us, one each, why not, we want to be like grandma. You're sat on the flowery blue sofa, remote in hand scour the pages of the TV guide to see what’s on next a loud game of bagatelle going on in the other room, it must be almost lunchtime. I squeeze along to the far end of the table stare at your shelves, fascinated by your collections. Knowledge of all sorts cultivating my curiosity. Titles referencing Egypt or geology, the sideboard buried under piles of documents and letters an Open University certificate, paints, and mini cereal boxes waiting for breakfast. Coronation chicken, Tiffy II and pudding, pavlova, trifle, vanilla ice-cream worth the chill of opening the garage door I can almost feel it every time I go upstairs to the room we share when I stay. Dimmed lights, the sound of pages turning bedtime reading when small eyes can’t stay awake a love of words, bestowed by example. I watch you rise at dawn through half closed eyes the clink of a wardrobe door closing the swish of a long flowery skirt you urge me to go back to sleep so I roll over until the sun reaches in through the curtains. I look towards the garden blooming with colour, with flowers I cannot name the sound of water trickling in the pond bright orange goldfish circling under the watchful eye of a stone toad and mine. Meanwhile you tend to the greenhouse birds gather on the feeder and sing good morning cool summer air creeps past the backdoor while I balance, barefoot, on a wobbly patio tile run up the path to the summer house, sit on the wicker sofa specs of dust dancing in beams of sunlight a slight musty scent mixes with the warm woody air. Here I brush the cobwebs from the handle and hide from the outside world in one of my own creation watch the others through a cracked pane of glass until someone inevitably interrupts the buzz of bees shouting to come look at the butterflies. You show mum the newest buds as she does now with me in Spain and I wonder if I’ll ever develop green fingers. Right now, the only thing I can keep alive are memories moments shared, reminisced alone a treasure trove of adventure and nostalgia creating a gaping hole, like the one in the ceiling snippets of times gone by, stored in the loft or my brain. Unfolding steps, the sound of metal sliding on metal. We climb towards the dark in search of a switch hoping to shed more light than tears when down come boxes of memories. You don’t get the excitement but you are happy if we are smiling. We are, even today the kind of smile that remixes at every bittersweet recollection the kind that chuckles with fondness mid sob the kind that still laughs with a hint of sadness I see in me the woman I knew I see you now, as clear as ever emotions weave and mix together for grief is the price we pay for love.
Death is a topic we don’t often talk about. We skirt around it in metaphors and euphemisms, we dress it up pretty and only ever speak about it in hushed tones. Yet it is the one thing we can be 100% sure about.
Since death comes to us all, every culture has a ritual for it. A protocol, a process, a set of actions that must take place. In Spain these happen the following day, in England several weeks can pass before anything is arranged.
These parting rituals allow those of us who remain to grieve.
When my grandmother died this summer, that grief turned into written words. It’s the one way I have of processing anything in my life, of making sense of what I’m feeling, of discovering my own thoughts.
Grief looks different for everyone. For me it was poems and Chrunchie bars and sharing good memories, three things that honour her and who she was.
We said goodbye remembering the good times, despite the tears it was beautiful.
Though sadness lingers it does get lighter eventually, we each take the time we need and there is no hurry at all. Perhaps there is no forgetting but remembering is a little less painful each day. Death also speaks of life.
Our turn will one day come, so for those who remain there is always this question: How do we want to be remembered?
That is the way we should live.