A Celebration of Life
It’s taken a lot of guts for me to write this post, I haven’t been able to put my feelings about my nan into words until now because it hurt too much. It was a numbing sensation, I couldn’t really feel anything for a month or so after she died. It’s only now I’m starting to grieve and feel emotions again – sadness, pain, loss.
I kept going over in my head the last time I saw her. I had a few days off work and went round to her house for the afternoon, just to sit and chat about nothing in particular – like you do. She loved word puzzles, crosswords her speciality, and I helped her with a cryptic one she wanted to finish. We discussed her 90th birthday (it would have been the 7th August, this year) she kept saying she didn’t want a fuss and would definitely not be having a party of any kind – I kept winding her up by saying that’s what you think Nan!
When I look back I think of all the things I should have said to her, if only I’d known it was the last moment we were going to have together. It seemed like such a waste to go on about trivial matters when I could have been saying more important things – like how much I loved her.
I never really knew my grandad (nan’s husband) he died from cancer when I was a toddler. I never felt like I was missing out on a grandparent though, Nan made up for everything and talked about Eddie often, sharing memories so it felt like I grew up having known him more than I did.
We both had a passion for gardening, I’d never known Nan be prouder of me than when I told her I had an apprenticeship at the Eden Project. She just smiled and looked like she was about to burst with pride. She often said if there had been opportunities in horticultural in her day like there are now then her life might have ended up very differently.
She designed the garden of her home herself but in the last five years or so her mobility deteriorated after a hip operation which meant she couldn’t tend to the garden she loved, which broke her heart. I cared for it as regularly as I could, because I knew how much it meant to her.
Another passion we shared was poetry, she introduced me to all the greats – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Shakespeare, Oscar Wilde, Emily Dickinson, Robert Burns, Tennyson, Edgar Allan Poe, Christina Rossetti, John Keats. . .
Nan taught me the Norwegian language as well as several traditional Norwegian poems, which had been passed down from her grandmother to her mum and so on. I feel proud of my Norwegian heritage, now more than ever. She was my dad’s mum and the only immediate family he had left in England – all his other relatives live in Norway, which really hit home for him and has left a big hole.
I kept myself as busy as possibly with the funeral preparations, helping my mum as much as possible because my dad obviously wasn’t up to it. If I hadn’t done practical things such as ringing round friends and family and organising flowers and food I think I would have crumbled. Me and mum put more effort into the flower arrangements than anything else – it’s the one area we knew Nan adored.
We used an amazing local florist who designed the bouquets and baskets of flowers so beautifully. There were roses, carnations, daffodils, grape hyacinths, orchids, lilies – just a haze of bright, happy colours, symbolising a celebration of life rather than the mourning of a death.
I read out a poem of my own at the funeral, it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life. I was determined not to break down in front of everyone, I promised I’d be strong for my dad if no one else but it took every ounce of strength I had to hold it together. It’s called “In Our Hearts”:
I will see you in winter snow
and summer skies,
I will see you in spring flowers
and when the moon begins to rise,
I will see you in the morning sun
and when the day is through
I will look at the stars
and I’ll be seeing you.
I will see you in all that I do
You will live on in our hearts
For we will never stop loving you.
Nan requested for another poem to be read out, “Tomorrow” by David Romano:
When tomorrow starts without me,
and I’m not there to see;
If the sun should rise and find your eyes
all filled with tears for me;
I wish so much you wouldn’t cry
the way you did today,
While thinking of the many things
we didn’t get to say.
I know how much you love me,
as much as I love you,
And each time you think of me,
I know you’ll miss me, too.
But when tomorrow starts without me,
please try and understand,
That an angel came and called my name
and took me by the hand,
And said my place was ready
in heaven far above,
And that I’d have to leave behind
all those I dearly love.
But as I turned to walk away,
a tear fell from my eye,
For all my life I’d always thought
I didn’t want to die.
I had so much to live for
and so much yet to do,
It seemed almost impossible
that I am leaving you.
I thought of all the yesterdays,
the good ones and the bad,
I thought of all the love we shared
and all the fun we had.
If I could relive yesterday,
I thought, just for a while,
I’d say good-bye and kiss you
and maybe see your smile.
But then I fully realized
that this could never be.
For emptiness and memories
would take the place of me.
And when I thought of worldly things
that I’d miss come tomorrow,
I thought of you, and when I did,
my heart was filled with sorrow.
But when I walked through heaven’s gates,
I felt so much at home.
When God look down and smiled at me,
from His great golden throne.
He said, “This is eternity
and all I’ve promised you,
Today your life on earth is past,
but here it starts anew.
I promise no tomorrow,
but today will always last,
And since each day’s the same day,
there’s no longing for the past.
But you have been so faithful,
so trusting and so true,
Though there were times you did some things
you knew you shouldn’t do.
But you have been forgiven,
and now at last your free.
So won’t you take my hand
and share my life with me?”
So when tomorrow starts without me,
don’t think we’re far apart,
For every time you think of me,
I’m right here in your heart.
The vicar asked if I would like to read it out but I had to decline. I only just made it through my own poem, which was a few verses long, there was no way I would have been able to read out another highly emotional poem without losing it. We gave the flowers away to family and close friends, and put our favourite bouquet on grandad’s grave – the perfect place for it.
Even though Nan has been lain to peace it’s not as final as that, not by any means. I think of her more than I thought I would, moments like passing by her house when I’m on my way home and the first thought which pops into my head is “I’ll go and see Nan” only of course I can’t.
I actually went and bought a picture of a woodland of bluebells a couple of weeks ago, with the intention of giving it to her. It sounds mad to say you forgot someone’s dead but when you’re used to having someone around for your whole life then suddenly they’re not there any more, it takes a hell of a lot of adjusting to get used to it.
I miss her most when I have something to tell her, like what’s happening at work or bigger news, like getting a place on the Professional Gardeners’ Traineeship. I just know she would be so proud of me, and I wish more than anything I could share moments like that with her.
This may seem like a very self-indulgent post but I’ve written it not just because it’s the only way I can express myself but also to help anyone who has lost a loved one. Even though each grievance is unique and personal to the individual, to know you’re not alone in feeling this way can sometimes seem like a huge relief.
I’ll finish with something I wrote a few days ago, called “Love Speaks”. It sums up everything in this post, in just a few lines. . . I hope you can appreciate it 🙂
Now the sky is an angel richer
our tears gave you wings to fly,
life is eternal, love is immortal
in our hearts you will stay alive.
Death leaves a pain we can all feel
but love leaves memories which help us heal,
you will be remembered in every way
for our love speaks louder
than any words we could say.
- Posted in: Photography ♦ Poetry
- Tagged: a celebration of life, angels, askedal, bouquet, carnations, celebration, colours, cross, david romano, death, eddie, emotional, emotions, feelings, flowers, funeral, garden, grandad, grave, hearts, in our hearts, life, lilies, love, love speaks, marie, marie askedal cross, memories, moments, my nan, nan, norway, norwegian, orchids, passion, photography, plants, poetry, remembering, roses, tomorrow