There is no guide book to navigate grief. It is messy and uncomfortable. It is uncomfortable to even write about it.
It has now been a full year since my grandmother passed away. There is no measure to quantify the void which she has left.
Many years prior, I had worn my confirmation outfit as I was ushered into the front pew for my grandfather’s funeral.
No expectation beyond the request to simply sit there. As children, we had unlimited access to rock shandy after the service and were steered from the room when the heavy sadness descended. That sadness where you see people fold in upon themselves.
Now, you stand in black. In a hallway next to your brother. Unsure of how to act, what to say, how to position your hands, your feet. Kind people with kind eyes offer their sympathies.
Some look at you with an air of uncertainty as they take your hand. They do not know you as an adult. Their memory is of seeing you walking home from primary school or at the butchers with your mother. So, you stumble and mumble, offering an explanation as to who you are. They smile as it slowly dawns on them and they try and marry the child version of you, ‘…with the long, dark hair’, to the grown one. It is too warm to leave your coat on, too cold to be without it.
Then the heavy sadness descends. Heaving sobs which cause you to inhale your hair and gag as you try to turn into the wall. Yourhusband is suddenly beside you and now you are choking with the embarrassment of it all as people look on.
At this time, I envied people their faith. The ability to find comfort in prayer and devotion. It is not my way but I was envious nonetheless. I stood and knelt at incorrect intervals. I struggled to recall the words of prayers which had been practiced over and over again when younger. It was easier to stay silent with bowed head.
Yet, there was one singular moment, when sobs racked others that I suddenly recalled the words. The waves of repetition spurred me on as voices answered in response.
Then, it was done. The door was closed. No more cups of tea or sandwiches to make. No more, ‘thank you for coming’, left to issue. All that was left was hurt, sadness, anger and pain; wedged between apple tarts and empty plates and cups.
Time is a healer. The greatest comfort andfallacy of them all. Lives are irrevocably altered, relationships sour and strengthen. What time does allow you is the window to develop a new way of coping; a way to evolve. It allows you to process your own grief as well as those around you. It will not make it any less messy orawkward. But what it will finally allow you to do is remember.
‘Memory is the dairy that we all carry about with us’ — Oscar Wilde.
This is the easy part.
I remember how she loved lipstick and lotions and potions. I remember always being referred to as ‘the saucy one’. How she spoke of people having ‘such good nature’ and equally those who were devoid of it. How there was always Tanora in the fridge with all of the fizz eked from the bottle so as to render it the texture of cough syrup.
I remember Fry’s Chocolate Cream and stashes of Silvermints dotted about the house. I remember real fires at sweltering temperatures, immaculately kept rooms which still feltwelcoming and Daniel O’Donnell serenading all and sundry from her CD player.
How she adored and was adored. She had known grief, loss and hardship yet also success, happiness and love. She refused to dwell,preferring to slap on some lipstick, fix her hair and face things head on. She could be sharpand soft in the one breath. She could hold aconversation with any individual of any age. She was ahead of her time and of her time.
I also remember her asking me to write about her. How I would try and fob her off with a ‘someday’, but she would persist nonetheless. Cajoling and winking after every entreaty.
How I knew, that there were not enough words to describe her nor ever would be. How I would never do her justice.
Yet, that final day as we left the church, when my husband had taken our children, dressed in their Christmas clothes, to the corner shop and my son returned holding a can of rock shandy; I made a promise to her. That I would write about her. We still miss her. But we remember her for all that she was and continues to be.