As a small child I spent a lot of time at my grandparents, fortunately they lived down the street. I had a very strong bond with both my grandparents. I doted on My grandfather, I would wait patiently at their house, with my grandmother, until he arrived home from either work, or from the pub. It was usually the latter!
At the age of three, I experienced death where I drowned in the garden pond. I can’t say how long this event happened, but I was given medical attention and I was officially dead. My father carried out CPR until the ambulance arrived and I had a huge lump on my head for a few days!
From this tragedy, I then went on to suffer with hearing loss. My childhood was a quiet existence, where I truly struggled to hear sound and communication was slow. I did learn to speak but to do this I needed to listen through 🎧 headphones, to match the words to the sounds I heard. This opened a world of books and I spent most my childhood absorbed in books. I love books.
A year later I began the first of many surgeries to fix my hearing. This was another serious trauma that stayed with me throughout my childhood. It was this trauma that created the very reason as to why I am the caregiver and nurturer I am today.
A couple of months later, my beloved grandfather was ill. He had cancer and was now living in a hospice. I doted on my grandfather and he doted on me. He had a deep Glaswegian (Scottish) accent that people found difficult to understand. Yet I had no problems communicating at him. He adored me, and I returned his adoration back.
We didn’t have long, before he was taken by the dreaded disease of cancer.
I would excitedly run to the curtain, pulling back net, press my face against the window glass, my eyes would stare out searching patiently to see if he was walking down the street. I would get so excited when I saw him, ‘he’s here, he’s coming home,’ I would blurt joyfully. I adored him so much, he had jet black hair and cool blue eyes, he was a very handsome man. My grandmother was obviously smitten with him, she came from a very affluent background, her family owned hotels in Ireland, she was a catholic and held onto the values of the church in whatever way she could. My grandfather was the total opposite, he was raised in a more impoverished existence, from Scotland and he was strict protestant, a clash of their respective religions and a meeting of two hearts overruled the values and principles of my grandmother’s church. Well in honesty, it was my grandmother that renounced her religiously values! She would tell me she was high church of England, even though she kept her rosary beads close by in her bag, gifting them to me, on her passing from this world to the next. She didn’t attend mass or anything like that. Even after my beloved grandfather died, she kept her vows and didn’t revert to her catholic rules.
Well, she had to renounce her religious values, to be with my grandfather! She fell madly in love and abandoned everything, to be his wife. Her affluence, money, her religion. I think it was those blue eyes too!
Sometimes love is so powerful, that even two opposing religions with such strong opposing political values, can come together under the spell of love! My grandparents certainly showed love can and does, conquer all boundaries!
Fond memories, of such innocence and tender times I had as a little girl, my innocent admiration to this great man. I would often get impatient when I waited for him, asking my grandmother, ‘Is he coming home soon grandma?’ she would reassure me by showing me his dinner, keeping warm on the stove, under a pot of boiling water.
If his dinner was on the stove, I knew it wouldn’t be long till he was home.
I remember helping my grandmother lay his place at the table I always wanted to see what he was having for dinner, so that when he walked through the door, I would announce what he was being served. I fussed over him, taking off his shoes and putting on his slippers, then I would climb up on the chair beside him, eyes wide in awe of him, with my small side plate, he would share his dinner with me. Sometimes I would sit on his knee and talk about my day!
I’ll never forget the smell of woodbine cigarettes that emanated off him, or the beer on his breathe. I was so mesmerised with him, and he would devote his attention to me. Sometimes I would sing to him a song, as he smiled. Oh, those blue eyes, looking into mine. Such sweet memories.
When I walked into the hospice, I was horrified as I saw him sitting in the wheelchair. I immediately marched up to the nurses and started punching and hitting them. Yelling at the top of my voice ‘What have you done to him! he could walk before he came in here and now you’ve taken his legs away!’ I went into a blind rage (I was only five) and thrashed out at the nurses. I was so 😡 mad. In reflection the reason I reacted like this was because of my own traumatic experience. I believed it was the hospital that had harmed my grandfather, when it was my own experience that shaped my perception of his illness. After age five, I spent more time with my beloved grandmother. Throughout my childhood, she was a pivotal role when I was in hospital, she cared for me when my mother had to work, and I cared for her every weekend when I was older, taking her out in the wheelchair to do her shopping. She had poor mobility as she aged, a broken leg that didn’t heal properly restricted her mobility.
When I was 21, my grandmother took sick. She was so special to me, and it felt normal and heart warming to of had the privilege to spend all day long with a woman whom I admired, loved and cherished. I left my job to nurse her. I knew that over the journey of my own life she had been a solid rock and a foundation of love and kindness to me after every single operation I had to undergo. It was only natural for me to do the same for her.
When we would talk, I would often ask her ‘I wonder if heaven is real nana! Do you think it is all pink and fluffy and all full of love? And she would say to me, ‘I promise you chicken, (my pet name) When I go, I’ll come back and tell you!’
We often mused about heaven and what it was like and I would ask ‘how will you tell me?’ She would go into detail about how she often saw my grandfather standing at the window, so she said when she passes over she will come to me and give me a sign of the other life.
On Halloween, my grandfather’s birthday. The day I took her to the hospital, we were supposed to be attending a GP appointment. Before she stepped into the car and stopped in her tracks. Her face paled and she nodded, dropping her eyes to the floor. After about five minutes, she was writing in the seat I tried adjusting her seat belt to offer her some comfort as I was driving. But her pain persisted, when I arrived at the GP surgery, I set up her wheelchair and I heard the most awful rattle. In my innocence and panic, I tried to wake her, but I failed.
I leapt back in the car, and detoured straight to A & E. Once I arrived at the hospital, I ran inside to get help and a porter and two staff came out. My grandmother was lifeless, had a massive heart attack in my car as I was driving. I could smell woodbine in the rear of the car, and I could sense a figure, although I couldn’t see it, I knew my grandfather was there. Ready to take my grandmother to the other side. The hairs on my arms tingled as my heart bled with agony and pain.
At first, I froze in what seemed an eternity. Lost and inconsolable to what I had experienced. I was heart broken and in floods of tears. I felt responsible that I didn’t save her life.
Later that day, I fell asleep. I went into a deep slumber and I had the most heart-warming experience. I was walking up a mezzanine stairwell, where I could see a crowd around someone, I walked closer and then as I neared the centre, to see inside the huddle of people, my grandmother sat up, walked off the bed and came over to me. I was shocked at first. I said ‘Nan your walking? How can that be? You were in the car earlier, and I’m sure you died. Now you can walk. I don’t understand?’
My grandmother cupped my face ever so gently with her two hands, and gently said ‘I promised.’
At first, I couldn’t comprehend what she meant. The room was light, airy and with light pastel colours. There was nothing heavy or dark about this place, it was beautiful, calm and serene.
Then I remembered she had died and all the people surrounding her death bed upset me, I went over to tell them off, and it was my upset that changed the scene. I remember going through the dark and I could hear these fast footsteps, then my eyes opened, and I was back in my living room. The cat was darting back and forth like crazy and this is what woke me from my deep tranced state.
In my daze, I tried to comprehend what had just happened and where I had been. I thought it was all a dream, when I later talked with other people, they had asked me what was it that your grandmother promised as only I could answer this question.
It was in this moment that I realised, she not only kept her promise to me, she also took me to her final resting place. A memory that still tingles every hair on my body. A memory that reminds me when times get tough, and life gets hard. There is another land, across the rainbow, over the other side. And it’s beautiful.
Heaven is real, my grandmother promised to tell me about this place, and she not only honoured her promise, she showed me heaven.