Fifteen years ago, my nana died. She was in her eighties and as fit as a fiddle right up until the day she died. I’m old enough now to see that this was a blessing – a long life, well-lived, healthfully lived, until the end, which was swift and painless.
But at the time, I felt robbed. It wasn’t painless for those who loved her. We were left wondering why? We’d just celebrated Christmas together, for Goodness sake. Her eyes had shone with their usual degree of whit and vivacity, her lips had twisted with that quirk of amusement that oft sat upon her face, and she’d talked and nodded, laughed and eaten with all her usual degree of enthusiasm.
Less than a week later, she was dead.
I think of my nana often. I have her photograph right by my door and every day as I walk outside, often several times a day, I bid her farewell. I think about her life, which was full of so many road bumps, and so many joys. I think about what a gift it was that we had her for as long as we did, and that we were spared the pain of seeing her life and love dimmed by illness or disease. She was herself until the end.
I think about the lessons she taught me -resilience, perseverance, independence. My Nana Connelly was quite ahead of her times in these ways – widowed early in her marriage, with three daughters, she had to take care of herself and she did so with aplomb. She never remarried: my mother tells me Nana would say, “Better to be a young man’s darling than an old man’s fool.”
I’ve been nostalgic for nana today, fifteen years after losing her. As a child, she was a constant in my life, sweet-smelling and soft, stern at times, huggly at others, and also so very loved. I remember her laugh, more of a chuckle, really, and her kindness and her interest in me – an interest that was marked, because of her love. I remember her curious turns of phrase, borrowed from a faraway time, that were ‘uniquely nana.’ I remember feeling impatient with her, as I reached my teens, feeling that I knew so much more and oftentimes rolling my eyes at her stories. But nana wouldn’t have minded. She was young once, too, and that’s the way of the young.
Now, I wish she were here. I wish I could have a few more days with nana, to introduce her to my children’ and tell her about my books and hear her laugh and listen to her re-tell her stories.
I think of my nana, who died fifteen years ago, every single day, and speak to my children about her often. Is there more we can hope for, in life, than to make this kind of imprint on our descendants? I was so lucky to have my nana, and I’m thinking of her today, more than usual.