Yesterday, as I was leaving for work, I got a phone call from my mother in Hobart, to tell me that my grandmother had broken her hip a few days prior, and was now in hospital. The prognosis wasn't good, given her increasing frailty of late, and the fact she hadn't regained consciousness since the fall.
Last night, UK time, there had been no change. She was still hanging on. "I think she's waiting for you," my mother had said earlier. I'm due to fly to Hobart in ten days. The idea of her lying there, possibly in pain, until I got there was just heartbreaking. She had had far from an easy life as it was, having beaten breast cancer not once, but four times. I didn't want her to suffer any more.
I have the photo above framed on my dressing table. About midnight UK time, as I got into bed, I laid down and looked over at it.
"I love you, Nan," I said. "Don't worry about me, I'll be fine. Don't wait for me to come home. If you need to go now, I understand. Just go. I'll be all right."
Then Tom came in from the bathroom, we turned out the light and went to sleep.
Twenty minutes later, the phone rang. It was my father, with the sad news.
"When?" I asked, assuming it had probably been hours ago.
"Twenty minutes ago," Dad said.
It took a long time to get back to sleep.
It's been a sad day today. I've fortunately been working from home, so have been able to burst into tears whenever I've felt like it, without alarming co-workers. I know when I go home in a week it will be strange without her. I just feel so grateful that, in a way, I got to say goodbye.
Tom suggested putting our reserved bottle of Nobilo Sauvignon Blanc in the fridge tonight to toast Nan....but knowing the kind of lady she was, I walked up to Sainsbury's this afternoon and bought beer instead. She loved a beer. When she'd come round on a Friday night to watch the football, she and Dad would always share a beer, while my mother sipped a champagne!
So, I'll raise my pint to my Nan tonight - and if I had any footage of Carlton winning (unlikely!), or an episode of Derrick handy, I'd put that on too. But as I don't, I'll just remember her.
I'll remember her famous fudgy chocolate cake that was always perfectly iced, which she used to make for all the grandchildren's birthdays (her carrot cake was very good too).
Watching football with her, and how riled up she would get with the umpires!
Showing her stories I'd written, and the hugs she would give me when she finished reading them.
How pristine her house always was, and how she would always use the same coloured pegs on an item when hanging out the washing.
Mint peas that she'd serve with Sunday roast.
Teaching me how to knit, and buying me nail polish.
How her home was full of photographs of all the people she loved.
How she taught me and my sisters sign language, and how we laughed when one of us was asking her for apple crumble but asked for "lesbian crumble" instead (if you know sign language, the signs for apple and lesbian are very similar!).
Her incredibly mischevious sense of humour.
Her bright pink trackpants she used to wear in the 80s, and the poster of John Farnham she used to have in her loo.
The way she would meticulously update the AFL ladder on her fridge every week, and how she would put up her Christmas tree in November.
Her addiction to blackcurrant Soothers.
Her rose gold bracelets.
Her sweet and kind nature.
Her tea towel collection - and each one looked like it had never been used.
Her love of her garden, and the funny gnomes she used to place sporadically around it!
Her incredible independence and feisty spirit.
The funny dance she did to I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles) at my cousin's engagement party.
The bones she used to buy for our family dog, even though Mum had told her that Maggie was under vet's orders to lose some weight!
The way she devotedly watched Home and Away every night.
The green soap she always used to buy.
The pride she took in her family's achievements. Everything, no matter how small, was celebrated. Family engagement, wedding and birth notices from the paper were cut out and displayed on the fridge. I remember once she tried to find everyone's names in a newspaper or magazine headline, and would cut them out for her fridge collage. My name (Philippa) and my sister's (Rebekah) were the hardest to find, but I think she managed!
The way she took her tea - black, no milk, no sugar.
The way we would laugh over old photo albums for hours, and sometimes she would look at someone in a photo, make a face and make the sign for "bad" and then flip the page!
The way she just won over anyone who ever met her. She always made people feel important and welcome.
Every time I saw her she always told me how much she loved me. And I would sign "no, I love you more!" and she would sign back, "no, I love you more!" It was very cute.
Even though she couldn't physically hear me, I felt like she was the one person in my life who would always listen to me. What happened earlier this morning proved that beyond any doubt.
I love you Nan.