TELL THEM WELL

I have just lost my grandmother. Already I hear her voice scoffing at my euphemism: “You didn’t lose me darling, I was right there, you couldn’t have lost me. I didn’t get lost or slip away or pass on. I just died, that’s all. I died.” That was her; always so tell-it-how-it-is-you-look-tired-darling-and-your-eyebrows-need-work.

But she is lost to me. It is a huge loss. I have had her for nearly forty years and now I don’t. All that time she was always there with a tim-tam and some straight-up advice. And while she was tiny in stature, she was sizeable in presence; and she has left a very large hole.

Losing grandparents (to death, as opposed to the temporary wandering off kind of losing) is not an uncommon business, it is pretty low on the scale of perceived bereavement, particularly if it is ‘old age’ that takes them and it is expected. A week ago I might have agreed with that, even said that a quiet fall from perch would probably be a blessing given the state of her health and quality of life. Today I say bugger that it’s no blessing and dammit I want her back. I want the vibrant, prickly, devoted, funny, opinionated, loving woman that she was in the days when she squeezed fresh orange juice every morning without fail and ensured the brass was perfectly shined. I want more of her hilarious, often shocking truisms, the ones we are still talking about, the ones I can’t talk about here because they might involve obscenities and improper sentiments – all so incongruous with her elegant presentation but not with her character once you knew it.

But that’s just being selfish I suppose, because while she said she wasn’t ready to go, I think she was. I guess I hadn’t thought that she might not stand up straight again and ask me to help her fold the sheets. That she might not look me in the eye and direct me to use less mascara. That she might not go to another party, have a few too many Champagnes and send out a few home truths. That she might not outwit a roomful of intellectuals or go shopping at Max Mara.

But I guess once you’re bed ridden and you’ve stopped eating there’s really no going back. I knew that but it was too sharp a thought to dwell on. That one day soon her heart will stop beating and she’ll never tell anyone off for poor grammar or laugh uproariously or be the best dressed person in the room ever again. Ever again. At least not in life.

In glorious, orange-squeeze-scented memory she can though. All that and more. That’s why I write about her here – not out of obligation or guilt or even sorrow, but for the memory, because she deserves to be written down and read by strangers. Because people say we are forgotten after just two generations and for my dear, spirited granny, that is simply not good enough. She is not just another granny dying, none of our grandparents are. They are stories that need to be told and told again and told well.

I will tell her well, not quiet and pale and ill as she was toward the end. Just as we have told her stories in the days since she died. Just as my mum and her brothers told them to us all at her funeral last Friday. They told her funny and stylish and feisty and loyal and well.

While her face may fade from the memories of my children, they will know her stories forever. And in honour of those stories I will keep my eyebrows shaped and my mascara light, I will laugh loudly, live vehemently and never be afraid to be me.

Pamela Mathwin Emily Friend 19/10/25 – 19/02/15.

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Categories: Navelgazery

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15 replies

  1. Meg I have just lost my father …loved him so much… Funeral Thursday Xxxxx to you Xxx m

    Sent from my iPhone

  2. Beautiful. Bless you and your bold Grandma Pamela x

  3. Beautifully expressed, Meg. Those of us who have lost parents, grandparents and family members think you couldn’t have expressed it any better. Keep those wonderful family anecdotes circulating for as long as you can.

  4. I’m so sorry Margeurite. I hope Thursday isn’t too hard for you. Keep talking about him. x

  5. Your “Amazing Grace” was the most beautiful eulogy of all. That was a hard act to follow, but now your blog as well. I trust you’ll plant a prickle bush at your new home, as a constant reminder to mind your “p”s and “q”s – and avoid the opprobrium of a pedantic uncle taking over his mother’s corrective surgery and curbing your eloquent utterances.

  6. Beautiful!!

  7. That is a wonderful idea Dick. I will search for the appropriate prickle bush ASAP. There are thistles everywhere here but they are common and unattractive – and we know how she felt about that sort of thing. I will probably need both prickles and pedantic uncle though.

  8. Sorry for your loss. Such a beautiful piece, with wonderful memories 🙂

  9. Dear Meg,
    Your words were almost written for my family and the sadness we feel at losing our much loved Grandpa on Saturday. Thank you, you really get it. PS I am Marguerite’s daughter and she often forwards your blog posts to us. We love them!
    Nicky

  10. I sent this piece to my mother, Sheila, and she really appreciated the strength of the writing, the warmth of it. Turns out Sheila knew your Nan in Vaucluse, calls her Mrs Friend because that’s her way. Thanks Meg, your thoughts and writings strike a chord and are an emotional read. Your Nan would be proud. Cheers.

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