Recently it was the anniversary of the passing of my grandmother. I’m down two for two on the granny count and both of them passing has left an unfixable fracture in my life; a void that I doubt I’ll ever manage to fill. My granny Betty, the one whose anniversary it just was, passed when I was younger, but I still recall all the memories that we made together every day. I’ve been thinking a lot about death lately, and not in the morbid lurk-about-in-a graveyard type way, more in philosophical and curious way. Everything in life is so fragile and temporary for such a sudden and permanent change like death to be fair. I’ve found myself breaking my life down into fragments and sections, and from these sections I’ve drawn what I learned or felt, and how it impacted my existence.
I’ve lost three people in my life that caused my world to shudder and shake. Their passing inevitability altered everything in my life, including those around me, as well as my perception on certain matters. The first person I lost was my grandmother (the one I previously mentioned.) Although at the time I was already an emotional/hormonal time bomb teetering on the brink of self-destruction, I think I took the loss fairly well. I held myself together, had some form of composure. I even played a piece of music at her funeral – something that seems extremely odd to me now as I doubt I’d have the strength to do it if it happened today.
My first ever work experience was with my Granny Betty. She was the manager of a Sue Ryder shop in St Andrews and whenever I stayed over at hers I was lured into working in the shop by the promise of cream cakes and fried eggs (both for breakfast.) Given the level of anxiety I feel undergoing anything new these days, the thought of my ten-year-old self working the tills and serving customer without catapulting into a full blown panic attack complete baffles me. I remember feeling a sense of purpose every time I finished a shift, as though I had achieved something. It was a life lesson that until recently I never knew I had been taught, but one that I am very glad I was privy too. I don’t think I’ve ever met someone that worked harder than that woman did; always on the go, helping others (to the point I think it got a bit irksome with the family) by bringing in clothes from the shop for us. Always made the best homemade dinner. Every year she hosted a family new year party/dinner and brought everyone together. Which is funny because as a child I was blind to the unwillingness of some of the attendees, but now I recall it and laugh. My Granny Betty never took no for answer; family was important to her.
The second person I lost was my cousin Jamie. This hit me harder than I will ever admit or show. The passing was deeply tragic, more so by the fact she took her own life, something that I think about every single day. We grew up together, went to high school together. We were best friends as kids. Well, up until the point she punched me in the face because I wouldn’t stop singing Spice Girls as she tried to sleep. I remember the extraordinary level of wit she had; the one liners or comic slagging she’d come out with when we chatting about people. I use to be in awe of her. The reason her passing affected me so deeply was a few years prior to it I had tried to take my own life and in the months following that I was having a really hard time. During this dark period she was there for me, as well as my other cousin, and I never knew it then but now I realise that they both kept me from stepping back up to the metaphorical edge – even if was just by doing my hair or making food or watching movies. She made time for me and I feel that, since we lost contact after that, I never did her justice as I wasn’t there for her the way she was for me.
After her passing my view on suicide altered immediately. I saw the tsunami of destruction that crashed over my entire family and how it broke everyone. I till harboured suicidal thoughts but I knew then I would never act upon them. She taught me to be strong, to laugh. To be witty and bold by never backing down to anyone (including family members.) You never appreciate the true beauty of someone’s soul until its extinguished and this world is an uglier place without her beauty in it.
The third person I lost was my other Gran, my Granny Gen. This woman would defend me over anything. My parents always made the joke of saying ‘you could commit murder in front of your gran and she’d go to court and swear you didn’t do it.’ And it was true. That woman was in my corner from day one. She introduced me to classical music, opera, to Madam Butterfly, Lloyd Webber…A rich love for music stems from my dad, but it was my gran that taught me about the beauty and art of classical music. My fondest memories of her include sitting with a cup of tea and toast whilst watching episodes of Absolutely Fabulous, me laughing at half the jokes and unknowingly missing the other half as I was so young. I remember whenever Big Brother came on that was it, no conversation out of her until the entire season was finished. She watched it with religious conviction and could tell you the deepest secrets of any housemate. Like a psychiatrist observing her patients, she knew their lives inside out. Whenever she would make me toast she would say “the grill just takes a few minutes to warm up; it’s no as good as ma old wan.”
She introduced me to pocket money. Not in the same way my other gran did, but by making me walk her dog (later dogs) on a weekly basis. I always dreaded it; this sting of embarrassment always struck me whenever I had to undergo this hardship. Her breed of choice was a papillon, and as an image conscious teenager dripping with awkwardness and social anxiety, I always tried to keep to the back roads whenever I walked her dogs. I mean, I was already fending off gay comments left, right and centre, so walking a dog like that merely amplified my sexuality. I laugh about it now, merely because I really want a dog, a small dog, a dog that will act as a magnet at Pride and lure gays in my general direction.
When I lost her I lost a best friend; my champion. I knew that no matter whatever happened in my life she would defend me or be there for me. My biggest regret is that during the final few days of her life I couldn’t handle it; I couldn’t handle being around someone I loved that much whilst they slipped away from me. I live in fear that she resented me for this. I sat by her bedside, held her hand, but I was completely numb and every fibre of my being screamed at me to run out that hospital as soon as I could. I remember her waving her hand at me, as if to say ‘go away.’ My dad assures me she just didn’t want me to see her like that, but part of me feels that she was angry with me for not being there. I didn’t have the strength my sister had; she was so brave and stayed with her till the end. I couldn’t do that. And I carry that guilt with me every day; that I let down the woman who never let me down.
The tone of this blog wasn’t meant to be so dark or sad. I’m merely exploring my thoughts and the feelings surrounding death. It puts thing into perspective but in turn opens up a catalogue of questions, many of which I’ll never be able to find an answer for. I know I’ll lose people again in life and even though you know it’s coming, we are still shocked whenever it happens to us. Love each other; love your friends, love your family. Enjoy the moments.