Now that the rain has come and I’ve no longer got any family commitments I can settle down and get back to writing. This week has been a strange one for me, it’s been lovely and horrible at the same time.
A few weeks ago my Nan sadly passed away. She was the first member of my family who I’ve known in my lifetime to have settled down for the longest nap. I guess you could say that by reaching nearly the age of 26 without being greeted with the news of a family member’s death is something of a lucky run and I’m thankful for that, the problem is, I’ve had no practice in how to react.
Emotions obviously run high at funerals and thus I was switching between crying, laughing, smiling and out of body existential dread as quickly as the seconds passed. Let’s not even get into the incredible confusion that came with a religious ceremony. People were repeating lines and spouting new ones out the blue I was as confused as I am when watching live jazz when people just start applauding randomly in the middle of songs.
So yeah, not a pleasant experience but unfortunately it’s a part of life.
Saying all that, there’s some positivity that spawned out of the day. The ceremony went off without a hitch and in classic Irish fashion, the wake involved pint after pint and blurry eyes by 3 pm. This was a time for people to share old stories of a life that once was.
The stories ranged from sitcom level interactions over the years, life-changing conversations and stories of bravery & strength in the face of adversity. Telling off my dad because he allowed me to watch WWE Wrestling when I was a little child, being the rock-solid support that helped others in times of need to not speaking to her husband at the dinner table due to an argument instead insisting that “Someone should tell my husband to pass the salt as I am not speaking to him”. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen that exact scene in 65% of sitcoms made in the 1990s, She was doing this stuff in the 1960s somewhat of a trailblazer I guess.
Through the stories recounted throughout the afternoon and early evening, the lady whom I had known throughout my life wasn’t the same as she was to each and every other person.
This isn’t to say she wasn’t genuine but she knew her role and responsibilities to every person in her life. When clearing out her house and discovering the memories she’d kept hold of, the story of my Nan’s life kept getting more and more filled out.
Obviously, to me, my Nan had always been…well…my Nan. It’s a strange part of life when you grow up and suddenly start to see members of your family as people and not just, Mum, Dad, Nan, Grandad. I saw my Nan in a whole other light, I saw the young lady she was who had been swept off her feet by a handsome RAF Pilot (None of his genes passed on to me apparently) The 23-year-old mother who was pregnant with her second child when she lost her husband in an accident right as they were about to begin their lives together. The Mother who worked tirelessly to provide for her two children and future grandchildren. The beloved community member, the local teacher, the travel enthusiast. So many different sides that I was unaware of.
I feel like I’ve discovered more about my Nan in the past week then I’d known throughout my time on this here earth and I honestly urge you, readers, to appreciate the people in your life whilst they are around. It’s all too easy to put people into categories and rely on the expectations we have for said person and ultimately forget that they have a lifetime of events behind them. A lifetime of experiences to tell.
It’s incredibly sad that I had to wait for someone to die for me to realise that there are so many things I wish I could ask her. I spent a good chunk of my university studies on post-war society in Britain, reading endless books by scholars when I had a treasure chest of stories merely a phone call or drive away.
The life she lived turned her into the brilliant woman who is sadly no longer with us.
Elizabeth Mary Beryl Chapman: 17th December 1935 – 7th April 2018.