A personal account of how one girl is learning to live with the grief of losing her beloved Nan.
It was the 9th of July at around 1am. That was it, the call I had been expecting for a while. The phone call to say the most beautiful, kind and bravest lady in my life had passed away.
I couldn’t sleep that night anyway. The evening before with all my family there at my parents’ house I took my Nan’s hand and kissed her forehead. That’s when I did my last ‘goodnight I love you’. I was a carer and I recognised the signs. I knew she didn’t have long. Earlier that day all the grandchildren sat upstairs with Nan, not much was said but tears flowed and hands were held, shoulders were cried on and hugs given.
It had been one hell of a year, from the day we heard the dreaded ‘C word’ we knew things were never going to be easy or the same again – Nan had been diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer.
After months in and out of hospital trying everything we could to make things comfortable, this brave lady decided enough was enough and she was going to stop chemotherapy and treatment. The treatment made her tired and drained; she didn’t feel well at all. It was her choice and we all supported her decision.
Nan was always a bubbly happy lady who loved life. She never complained about anything, well, apart from when the chippy forgot to put scrumps on her chips! She was always there for other people. Nan used to watch the soaps and make us all laugh because half the time she would watch them with her eyes shut – then deny being asleep! Bless her heart. I’d do anything to glance over at the sofa and see her snoring to Corrie. It’s the little things that you remember.
Nan was nursed at home with the help from district nurses, carers and us – her family. We were there twenty four seven. She became poorly very quickly towards the end. We knew it was coming, but no matter how many times I had seen it at work you never know how hard it is until you’re in that boat and it’s hard, extremely hard.
It was then that Nan decided she wanted to go into St Barnabas Lincolnshire Hospice inpatient unit on Nettleham Road in Lincoln.
I really didn’t know what to expect when I walked in there for the first time, but it was so fresh and clean and the staff were brilliant. They looked after Nan so well and not only that, they looked after all of us too. Even little things like making us a brew and taking the time to talk to us.
I will always remember the lovely garden and how on one sunny day I went out there to have some time alone. Everything just paused; it was like everything outside the ground of that hospice wasn’t there. It gave me a lot of time to think.
I cried for a while then walked in and sat with Nan and this ginger cat came in to visit and jumped on the bed. Nan loved cats. It was like a little home from home, the people were friendly and the surroundings were beautiful. It was lovely to know Nan was being looked after there.
Nan really appreciated what the staff did there for her and so did we, but after a while she decided she wanted to come home. I would go over and visit her everyday and just sit there talking to Nan. She wasn’t alone; all the family visited and tried to remain strong.
I remember getting the bus home one day and I instinctively knew something wasn’t right. When I got home Mum and Dad were both upstairs. One either side of Nan, holding her hand. As soon as I walked in I tried to say ‘morning Nan’ but just burst into tears. I went to the spare room and took five minutes to have a good old cry and pull myself together. I knew from the atmosphere and from Nan’s face it was nearly time.
We rang around the family who came to be by her side. We took it in turns to go upstairs to see Nan and to spend some time talking to her; she tried to speak back but didn’t make much sense. From working in care I had learnt that hearing is one of the last senses a person loses so we talked and talked knowing Nan would be listening.
My boyfriend came to pick me up, I was shattered and emotional and there was nothing more I could do. I went upstairs – I had a feeling it would be the last time. I stood over Nan, took her hand, kissed her forehead and said “goodnight Nan, it’s OK to go to sleep now”. I stood there for a while then kissed her goodbye again.
That was it, the last time. I had a feeling it was but it’s still hard leaving. That night I got the call.
I just sat up all night watching each hour pass and cried a lot. I was used to that by now, nearly every night I cried myself to sleep. Trying not to make a sound so I didn’t wake my partner up, the feeling of being alone and miserable. My cousin and her partner picked me up the next day and we went back home to my parent’s house.
The bed was empty, the window open, the chairs we had sat in the day before were empty. So far that was the worst day of my life – it had finally come to an end. In a way I was relieved, I didn’t want Nan to be gone, but she wasn’t suffering anymore, she was free. Free to be with Gramps.
I remember when I was young and my Granddad died. My Aunt said look up at the sky and the brightest star up there will be him.
I remember not long before that I had been away camping with my boyfriend and friends. We lay on the rocks down at the beach when one friend said: “just think we could be the only ones on this beach for miles, no one else just us” and for a while the world stopped. It was so peaceful.
We later looked up at the stars and I said to my friend, “I’m worried because when Granddad died they said to look for the brightest star, what am I going to do once Nan has gone do I look for two?”
He said: “no, the brightest star will be them both”. It sounds silly having conversations like that but it helped; I’ll never forget that random conversation on the beach.
I went outside the night Nan passed away and looked up at the stars and just smiled. It was a weird feeling, I felt guilty – guilty that I smiled. Then I thought about it, it was finally over. No more suffering for Nan and she would be up there with Granddad telling him all about us and watching Mrs Brown’s Boys with a cuppa.
The funeral was arranged and the songs chosen. Every time I hear White Flag by Dido or Bryan Adams’ Everything I do, I well up. But now they’re Nans songs, for a beautiful lady and it reminds me how strong she was.
It was only about a month later I realised I had grieved for Nan whilst she was still with us. She wouldn’t want to see me grumpy and emotional all the time, so with the help of loved ones and friends I pulled myself together. I started a new job and started planning things to do. I learnt a lot from the past year – it doesn’t matter how alone you feel or how much you want to shout and cry you still have people around you that care.
It may not feel like it but its true – everything thrown at you in life is a test and no matter how many times you cry you get on with things. I still have my odd days where I’ll just randomly sit and have a cry but that’s OK because I know they’re safe up there and I know I’m loved and I thank everyone that helped me.