It’s been almost a year since my grandma died. Of all the grandparents I had, her life and death had the biggest effect on me. I spent two years of my almost-28-year lifespan with her. And it was one of the most significant 2 years of my life. I was completing my final year of study at Laidlaw college when grandma came to live with us. She just came and didn’t leave. I was flatting at the time but decided to move home so mum would have some help. I only had classes two days a week so I could be home to give her lunch and take her to the bathroom, etc. It was a fine balance of duties as I was working at the same time in a resthome not far from home. Most of my life consisted of looking after old folks. But there’s a beauty in it ay. I listened to stories as told by this elderly generation about days gone by living on farms, designing rockets, raising children, writing stories, creating, making, living. And some of their stories were amazing… some were very very… um… tall haha.
Grandma was no different. She would tell stories of her brothers, her children, he cousins, her sisters, her parents. She told stories about her own experiences in growing up in the islands. I spent a lot of time with grandma. A lot. And I learned a few things worth holding on to. I learned primarily that regardless of how stern she was with her 30+ grandkids, oh boy did she love us. I don’t think there was anything that gave her more joy and pride than the lot of us.
She got cold and wanted to go home, so I took her home to Samoa and stayed with her for 6 months. It was supposed to be a year post-study but we ended it on bad terms. Grandma and I were fine but there were a few other relationships that got broken and never really got healed. All of us have our own version of what happened and some of us have tried to be as honest as possible (even about our shortcomings), but pride is an awful thing and a hard thing to let go of. It’s the sufferance of many people in my family and a weakness that perhaps stems from our matriarch – the proudest of them all (not always a bad thing… but definitely not always great).
So grandma came back to NZ, and after a small bit of drama, ended up living with my parents in Wellington. Then… again, she got cold and wanted to go home. So mum took her home and stayed with her for 2 years. My younger sister came and lived with me while I was working as a youth worker (from having an entire life dedicated to caring for old folks to dedicating my life to young people lol). The 2 years ended when grandma passed away at Easter weekend last year. For years I celebrated Easter at Eastercamp with a bunch of young people but this last year and a bit, Easter consists of remember grandma.
And I guess it’s a time for remembering other people’s grandmas too. A few weeks ago, a friend lost her grandma. And interestingly, the chapel where the funeral was in Timaru, was set up quite similarly to the place we had my grandma’s family service in Samoa. I sat in a spot with my cousins similar to where my friend sat with her cousins. Pain is one of those universal languages we all speak ay.
And last week, my great-aunt died. My cousin’s (or 2nd cousins or whatever – they’re all the same to me), lost their grandma.
One of her grandchildren is currently fighting cancer. It’s been a slow uphill battle for him. 24 and fighting cancer. What do you even do with that? And before I ditched facebook, one of the glimpses I caught of him was the desire to fight for other people once he’s won his own fight. He’s inspiring me.
I guess hope is a universal language too…