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  • To my Gran..

    To my Gran..

    I recently bought a ring for my Gran, Anne, who was a beautiful, kind, incredible woman that loved her family, pets, and the West Coast Eagles (I’ll let you guess the order of which she loved the most).

    She was a teachers assistant, before she quit her job to become a full time carer for both of her parents while they had dementia. At the same time she was taking care of my mother and I while I was a baby. We ended up buying the house next to her and putting a bright yellow gate in the fence as I spent most of my time with her and would go between houses through the fence - I don’t think it was ever closed.

    She taught me how to use a knife and fork, spell, and how to manage my curly hair just like hers (among many, many other things). She raised me from a baby and was more of a mother than Grandmother.

    Around this time she also battled cancer, and luckily went into remission. I was too young to remember her cancer, but after all of the treatment she struggled with shingles in the top right of her face and head for the rest of her life. Somehow, even after living with constant pain, she was still supportive and looked after myself and my entire family.

    After I got to about 8 years old I was moved around a lot. It was a cycle of living with just Mum, to another one of her partners, and then back to just with Mum after her and her partner split up. Rinse and repeat. It was to the point that where I lived was never my home - Grans place was. It was safe and calm, she made sure of that.

    The last “stepdad” that I lived with was when I was 12, and he was quite abusive. Living with this caused me to fall into a bad depression at about 13 and honestly the only person who got me through it was my Gran. She helped us move out of his house a few years into her place, and then I moved in with her by myself when I was 16.

    For years I was experiencing constant panic attacks, not sleeping, not eating, hardly going to school, and had picked up some very unhealthy coping mechanisms. There was a time that I almost had to go into hospital when I was 17, but she was right there the entire time. I honestly don’t think I would still be here if it wasn’t for her.

    I met my partner when I was 15, and we started dating a few months later. I remember telling him that the only persons approval that he needed was my Grans. Honestly I threw him in the deep end a little because when he got to the house I yelled at the top of my lungs “Gran, this is Will my human” and basically left them to it. They got on thankfully because we’ve been together for 9 years. They would sit in the lounge room talking for hours, mostly about the football. She would always get him a chocolate stocking for Christmas, and a bunny for Easter which is how I knew he was in the good books.

    It wasn’t until Christmas 2022 that I realised something was very wrong. We had suspicions that she had early stage dementia like her parents did, but nothing serious. Some general forgetfulness, but it could have also been just that she was getting older. Bless her, but Gran was the most stubborn person I’ve ever met and there was absolutely no chance of getting her into a doctor until it was completely dire. That Christmas I walked in on her searching her room frantically looking for Will and my Christmas stocking. She swore she had bought us both one but she couldn’t find it - she hadn’t.

    In May this year (2023) I got a call from my mother that Gran had had a bad fall and was going to the hospital to get checked out. She was in there for four months and never came out. She could be stern, but she wouldn’t hurt a fly. During her hospital stay she swore and screamed at almost everyone except me, hit three nurses, and bit one.

    I saw her in hospital every single week, but the last time I saw her alive was the 29th of August. I don’t know why, but there was something screaming in my head that I had to see her. She wasn’t really conscious, which I’m glad for because I was there as they moved her into the palliative care section of the hospital. She was about 6ft tall, but she looked so small in the bed. I laid in the bed cuddled up to her and talked to her for God knows how long.

    It took until late July for her to officially be diagnosed with dementia, and she passed away peacefully on the night of the 30th of August with my family members with her. I found out later that the dementia was in 3 out of 6 parts of her brain which is why from the symptoms showing to her passing happened so fast.

    I was at home with Wills parents and sister when I got the call. It’s a blur but I remember that it took about few minutes to kick in. My sister in law says that the look on my face told her that she needed to call Will to come home. Then I could feel the blood leaving my body and it felt like my heart was physically ripped out of my chest as I fell to the floor in my living room. I didn’t know I was physically capable of the sounds that came out of me, but Wills Mum and sister sat on the floor with me whaling for what seemed like eternity.

    Will drove me to the hospital to say goodbye to Gran, and we stopped so I could buy my first packet of cigarettes in years.

    I was expecting them to have moved her to look like she was sleeping, but they hadn’t. I spent about two minutes hugging her, and this is silly but the fact that she didn’t look comfortable was driving me up the wall. So I got her another pillow to support her head (she had a bad neck), tucked her in and moved her arms to lay on her stomach as carefully as I could so I didn’t hurt her (again, silly). Then I asked the nurse if she had some scissors because I spent most of my life plucking her whiskers for her and she would have killed me if I let her go with them on her face, so I trimmed them and brushed her hair.

    It was then that I remembered Beyond The Willow Tree. Gran and I had talked about their company before, and she absolutely loved the idea. So I took a very small piece of hair the back as she was very particular about her hair and I wasn’t about to give her a side fringe or anything, and kept it in a safe in my jewellery box until I was ready.

    I got most of Grans jewellery after she passed. I spent my whole life only wearing silver, but I’m a gold girl now thanks to her. She literally never left the house without her gold and diamonds. So the fact that I can keep a part of her with me in a gold ring with diamonds, with her hair that she loved so much means more than I could ever explain.

    I turned 25 this December just gone, and have never experienced grief before. My first time is the big one because my Gran was the absolute love of my life. It’s like there’s something physically missing in my body, and I haven’t felt like this since I was a teenager.

    In saying that, even just having a platform to write this all out is healing, but being able to have this ring feels like my Gran has come home to me in her own way.

    Thank you BTWT for all that you do for people. The peace and closure that your work brings is indescribable.

    Thank you also to my wonderful partner Will, who has kept me afloat since that Christmas in 2022, and especially so over the last four months. I know it’s a nightmare trying to sleep next to somebody who doesn’t sleep, and who wakes you up crying constantly. I truely couldn’t have done this without you and your beautiful family. I know that Gran would be so proud that her Granddaughter is with somebody as incredible as you.

    To my Gran, I love you more than I would ever be able to explain. Thank you for everything, for my entire life. I’ll have a piece of you with me forever now, and I promise no more cigarettes xx

    - Phoebe

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