THIS week, in the midst of Christmas and all of the merry freneticism that its celebration brings, my family lost someone very special.
To me, she was my beautiful Nan. To my Mum, she was an adored and most cherished mother. To my five-year-old daughter Amelia, she was Grandma, with the soft grey hair who loved her very much.
To all, she was the whip-smart woman with the piercing eyes and the gutsy spirit that sustained her until her final moments. Her last breath on this earth.
I already find myself desperately searching my memory for thoughts of her; certain conversations, or just the sound of her voice. Oh, that voice with its unparalleled beauty in speech and in song.
What a gift it was and now I will never hear it again beyond what my mind can recall.
And her lion heart, which she gave to me so many times over the years, always when I needed it most.
Like when Amelia’s deafness was diagnosed and I sat across from her at the Rosebud RSL, tears streaming down my face and I said to her, “Nan, how could I not have known something was wrong?”
She fixed me with those intelligent eyes, filled to the brim with understanding, and simply said, “But you did know, my darling, you did.” As usual, she was right.
Nan always understood me and more importantly, she totally ‘got’ my sweet but headstrong daughter. She embraced Amelia’s differences, even learning to sign some key words to her in Auslan.
Among her last words to me was a specific message of love for her great-granddaughter. She could hardly speak by then – that lovely voice now ravaged by her illness – but she wanted me to know that she felt a special connection with Amelia: “We clicked”.
Where else should Amelia’s defiant approach to the world come from, but the pioneering stock that has produced some of the toughest, most wonderful people ever born?
They’re family myths, I know, but we hold tight to their significance in our lives. They make us feel part of something bigger than ourselves. We are not alone if we are together.
I shared so many passions with my Nan. We both loved to read and to swim in the summertime. Those summers spent on the Rye foreshore were some of the happiest times of my life. Kicking back on a lilo, burying each other in the sand, and laughing. Always laughing.
I know that memories fade, and it makes me panic to think that I won’t be able to remember as easily or clearly the sounds and sights of these times with her.
We have photographs to remind us, but how will I conjure up the touch of my Nan’s hand in mine or the melodic sound of her voice in my ear?
Who else will tell me with such direct and brutal honesty when I’m looking too tired or sick or thin (or not) or if I’m cutting the vegies the ‘wrong’ way? Who will fix me with eyes of steel and not let me lie and say that I’m alright when I’m not? “Come on, Lindy Lou, I know you”.
She did know me, she really, truly did. And I knew her like the skin on my own body or the thoughts in my head that remain unsaid.
Her name was Joyce but people called her Joy. And she was an embodiment of that name: a joy to know, to hold close and count amongst our own.
Be at peace now, precious woman. It’s time to rest.