Monday, October 17, 2011

An unexpected post

I debated whether to write this, and then I debated whether to post it. Some things almost seem too personal for blogging. In the end, though, importance won out. At the end of the day, this is a blog about what is important to me. Mostly, that includes food and day-to-day trivialities. Sometimes, though, life creeps in.

And so, we have an unexpected post.

The reason? My paternal grandmother passed away yesterday.

This, in itself, wasn't entirely unexpected. She has had more health scares than I can count over the last 4 years or so, with many, many ambulance calls and hospital trips. She had a small stroke earlier this year, not long after celebrating her 90th birthday, and she transitioned from hospital to a nursing home after that stroke. Although she regained almost all functionality, it was getting clearer and clearer that her body was tiring out.

She had a larger stroke this last Saturday and never fully regained consciousness. She stopped breathing on Sunday afternoon.

I knew when leaving Victoria back in February, after visiting for the 90th birthday celebrations, that it may be the last time I saw her, or my 91-year-old grandfather. Despite this, the experience of death took me by surprise.

You see, in what I imagine is rare for someone in their mid (heading rapidly towards late...) 20's, prior to yesterday I had 4 grandparents, a full set of aunts and uncles, and no immediate friends who have died. Death isn't something that has affected people I know, or at least not those I have known directly. As I realise now, one-step-removed from death is very far removed.

It is odd, and disconcerting, and sad to think how quickly it occurs and how quickly things then change.

To think that she was alive on Saturday and not on Sunday. To think that my grandfather was a husband on Sunday morning and a widower on Sunday night. To think that my father had two parents living last week, and now has one.

I am, of course, grateful the experience came to me later than most. I was blessed to grow up with full sets of grandparents, and these ones, my Dad's, lived an hour from us until a few years ago. (At that point, the constant health scares and strain on my grandfather necessitated a move to a smaller house, and somewhere closer to one of their children. They elected to return to Victoria, where they raised their family and had more connections, and where they could still live in a small town, near my Dad's sister, rather than a city, where we are).

I am also aware that 90 is a grand age to reach, and leaving behind 4 children, 10 grandchildren and 7 great-grandchildren is pretty impressive.

But I am oh so conscious, this week, of how quickly things can change. The people I care about are suddenly more precious as a result. I realise, as I didn't fully realise before, that they could disappear at any time.

I also realise that what we leave behind when we go is limited, mostly, to the memories others hold.

For my Gran, I offer these ones. And thanks.

For looking after me whilst my brother was born, and taking me to my first day of kindergarten. 

For looking after me and my brother whilst my sister was born.

For having toys and children's books specifically for us, in a cupboard in your house.

For pikelets. Date slice. Chocolate chip biscuits that sometimes had ginger.

(I didn't like the ginger. But I liked the cookies a lot when the ginger was missing. It was a risky game, reaching for those biscuits.)

For making us clothes when were were young.

For teaching me and my sister how to make meringues.

For hiding Easter eggs in your garden for when we visited on Easter Sunday.

For picnics.

For looking after our childhood cat when we went on holiday.
And for feeding the cat liver, which meant he didn't want to come home.

For showing me that a marriage can still be cherished after 60 years.

For confirming that stubbornness is a family trait.

(I have it too.)

For showing me that even when you're stubborn, sometimes the body has had enough.

Rest in peace.


  1. Condolences on your grandmother's passing. I think we spend so much time trying to control things, when in fact the most important things are out of our control. It sounds like there was much to celebrate in the relationship that you had with her and I'm smiling as I fondly remember my grandmother as well.

  2. Oh Kari, oh Kari. I'm so sorry. Hugs and hugs and hugs. I feel awful for posting about my grandparents coming home from hospital; I desperately hope I didn't unintentionally hurt you. More hugs, more hugs, until I squeeeeeezy-you big time! Please let me know if there's anything I can do xoxo

  3. I'm so sorry to hear about the loss of your grandmother, especially when she was far from you but I am glad you had that visit this year. She sounds like she had a special place in your life.

    Your post makes me think not just about death - of which I have had my far share of experience - but also of how fantastic it is to get to know our grandparents. Not only are grandparents wonderful but it also helps us understand where we come from.

  4. Oh I am truly sorry to hear about the passing of your grandmother, she obvioulsy played a very special part in your life. Thinking of you xx

  5. So sorry to hear about your grandmother. Condolences to you and your family, especially your grandfather. Losing a life long partner must be extremely difficult to deal with! xx

  6. Thank you Liz. And I'm so glad I brought back some fond memories for you of your grandmother :) Celebrating the life and relationship rather than focusing on death is definitely my focus this week.

  7. Hannah, thank you so very, very much. I felt that squeezy hug come all the way across the country and it was very welcome :) Thanks more than I can say.

    Also, please don't worry at all about the timing with your own grandparents! The timing was actually such that I read about your grandparents going home before I'd even heard about my Gran's latest stroke - but even if it was the other way around, I would still have been so glad for you and your family. More glad, even, because it would be nice to know that someone's grandparents are in their rightful places at home! I love hearing about your relationship with them.

  8. Thank you Johanna, I am so glad I had that visit too. You're right, too, in that grandparents can play an amazing role and I'm really very grateful I got to experience that, through both sides of my family.

    I'm also glad my post did throw up those positives for you. I still have little true understanding of how people who deal with more, and bigger, losses come back from those - such as yourself - but I do admire your courage in doing so.

  9. Thank you Lisa :) Very much appreciated.

  10. Thanks Mel - it is my grandfather who I am thinking of most. My parents are flying over for the funeral later this week so I'm glad he'll at least have the support of all his children.

  11. Oh Kari, I'm so sorry to read this :-( Your grandmother was obviously a very special part of your life and I'm sure will be very much missed.

    *big hugs* to you xxxx

  12. xoxoxo times a million, darling!

  13. Hugs to you Kari. And thank you for sharing those special memories. As terrible as it is to lose someone you love, keeping those memories keeps that person alive in your heart and in the hearts of others. I think there is no doubt that your grandmother lives on through you.

  14. Kari.. Sorry to hear! It is grand that you can look back with such fondness and remember the good times. I am in the same boat you were in and have never had somebody close to me die (at age 20. 2 grandpa's but didn't really know either of them.) It's something that everyone has to go through at some point. Well wishes to you and your family!

  15. Thank you Brooke - very much :)

  16. That was such a lovely comment Lisa. Thank you! I think she is living on through a lot of offspring (and their offspring), which is a nice thought :)

  17. Thank you Eleah - as you say, it's something we all have to go through eventually. I am grateful to have the memories and experiences with my grandparents that I do have.

  18. Hey Kari,

    I'm so sorry for your loss. Your Grandmother sounds amazing. I'm sure she loved you so much! It's amazing, truly crazy, how things do change so fast...a reminder for us to live in the moment. You are so lucky you had her in your life-and 90 with all of those children is impressive! I'll be thinking of you and your family.

  19. Thank you Hannah :) And I whole heartedly second your point about living in the moment. This has definitely reminded me of that! It's hard to do, but life is too short.

  20. I'm really sorry to learn about the loss of your grandmother, but as you acknowledge you are so lucky to have had her in your life, and with 90 years I know there will be many memories for you and your family to treasure. Family is family. Your post reminded me of all those feelings we have around the passing of a love one - of which I experienced last year with the passing of my father in law. We cling on to positively to all the good memories, that way they live on in our lives. We also cling on to those around us so much more, so dearly. Its when we remind ourselved how precious life is. I will be thinking of you at this time x

  21. Thank you Shaheen - I am grateful for those memories and think that I will become more and more aware of their importance (both with my grandmother and more generally) as life continues. They are indeed precious.

  22. She was obviously a lovely lady.

    I'll keep her - and you - in my thoughts.

  23. Kari, sending a huge hug to you. I'll bet your grandmother would have loved to have read what you wrote about her.
    Those incredibly precious memories keep her presence alive.

  24. Thank you! A part of me does take pleasure in knowing that she would have liked these memories too.

  25. This is a beautiful post. No matter the age, it's always hard to lose a loved one. My grandma is turning 91 this year. I hope she lives forever, but I know that's just not practical. Best wishes for you and your family

  26. It is hard once family members get to a certain age - there is a certain knowledge that they can't live forever, but I think it's too hard to think that way whilst they're there and so much a part of your lives. Happy birthday wishes to your grandma for 91 - and thank you for your well wishes :)


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