My grandmother passed away recently at 93 years of age. She was the last of that generation. My children, her great-grandchildren, were fortunate to know and love her. After she passed away, I thought much about how I would remember her. What was her essence to recall and pass to the generations that follow, or just to keep close to me? I think it was her determined innocence — her child-like state that she defiantly opted never to grow out of and my knowing that I could rely on her to remain comfortingly static while I changed, grew, desired independence and sought out challenges.
Whilst Nana’s way of being had its limitations, I have recently realised that this lady chose to remain in that state for almost a century during hardships and brutal challenges. This change-less way of being had an appeal for me that was a constant comfort to return to after my own challenges, to heal my wounds under the warmth and love of her aged hands. How many of us wish there was always that comforting, age-worn, perpetual figure to return to for some gentle words with an unyielding stance preferring to turn away from expectations and new developments? Can I always give that to my own children for their comfort whilst still welcoming change and modelling a sense of adventure? My Nana’s passing has motivated me to consider it.
While I seek growth and critical thinking, my Nana was not one to independently look for change and extend herself. She followed, was loyal, and outlived those who lead. She appeared to need very little to be content. But she had her share of trials and weakening experiences. Remaining in her child-like state with the softest hands reminiscent of a new born’s unweathered skin, and with the presence of an english rose, Nana never changed. She was a constant for me in an ever-changing world in which I am always trying to keep up.
The title of this post about Nana, “No wonder we loved her”, is a reference to the film Yentl, in which a woman is portrayed as happily in servitude. She wants nothing more than to be of comfort and service to her family. This was my Nana – not wanting to be a bother to anyone, helping in the smallest, honourable ways. She preferred dependence and resolutely pursued her need to not expect too much of herself while requiring leadership from others, in that child-like fashion.
She lived in her own cottage positioned near my parent’s house on their country property. We visited often to spend time with Nana and she was ‘Gran-Nan’ to my children – their own term of endearment. My children have many memories of her, captured in colour and recordings. But with her passing, I wanted to hold on to my own idea of her and what she will always represent. This I have done.
Now Nana will remain forever on a country property, scattered to rest under jacaranda trees, by a bench lovingly carved to allow us to sit with her and remember who she was for each of us – her delicate softness? Her sweetness? A child forever more?
Below is a poem my children and I wrote together to be read out at Gran-Nan’s memorial service. It became a precious way to share in our combined memories of her and pass it on to generations to come, to remember a woman who gave us life.
A poem for Gran-Nan
With warm, soft hands and a beautiful, lined face,
her angelic voice would bring us back to this place.
We’d sit on her porch getting cookies galore
while hearing her tell the same stories of war.
She’d push B on her walker (a gem to be small),
and when we were down, she’d help us stand tall.
A beautiful smile around sparkling, false teeth.
Sometimes she’d remove them to give us all grief.
We felt loved and enjoyed on her porch, along with Bill.
That little dog knew he was loved and is still.
Blue trinkets would be left on her fence for the bower
so the male bird would visit hour after hour.
When we came to visit, her roses were neglected
because we were loved, therefore never rejected.
B walked her home on a dark, torch-lit night.
She made sure Gran-nan was safe, free from fright.
She was a child forever who liked to play games
that children do still to keep life safe and sane.
A song she devised for children who waited
for their daddy returning to faces elated.
Here we all stand in honour of Gran-Nan
who lasted through hardships with impulse – no real plan.
She lived her life the best that she could
when dealt hands of Canasta that should have been good.
Her voice was renowned among those who knew
her talent was worthy but heard by too few.
With the voice of a songbird she’s flown home to roost
with long-lost loved ones who now need her to soothe.