Recently I lost my beautiful Nana. My friend, my supporter, my reality-check, the Great Nana of my two boys. She had cancer. I’ve never lost anyone close to me before, and I’ve never experienced cancer first-hand. I watched my dear Nana fade away before my eyes and all I could do was hold her hand and tell her I loved her. I felt utterly hopeless. I’m the doer, the problem solver. This was one problem that I could not solve and it has broken my heart.

The minister who officiated my Nana’s funeral spoke of the clarity that comes with death. And I couldn’t have put it better myself. Since Nana passed, and even in her final days, we shared so many stories centred around our family matriarch. I heard my mum, my aunties and my uncle tell stories of their childhood, I heard my Papa tell stories of Nana before they were married, parents, grandparents and great-grandparents. All of these stories formed a picture of my Nana that was so much more than I had ever known. I started to see this amazing women, confident and talented, caring and kind. She did things I never imagined in my wildest dreams and lived a life so big and so full. My Nana has become something even more special to me and I wish more than anything that I could have just one more day with her to tell her how proud I am of her.

My beautiful Nana

Nana and Papa

Nana and Papa, Viking Tours, Gold Coast 1950s

Along with the clarity with which I now see my Nana, comes a clarity around my own life. I can see more clearly now the important bits. The washing has become less urgent and tickling games on the ground with my boys take priority. I find myself embracing my husband in the kitchen instead of guiding him out of the way so I can get to the dishwasher.

Grief is a funny thing. It consumes you to a point where you can’t think of anything clearly. Even when you’re not specifically thinking of the terrible pain in your heart, it clouds your thinking and makes simple things tricky. I tried so many times over the last few weeks to open my computer and do some work and I would just sit there, staring, unable to work out where to start. And then time goes on and you find yourself laughing at something only to be hit by a pang of guilt, how can I laugh when she’s gone? And life does just go on around you, as if this great big piece of your life hasn’t just been taken away from you. Then sometimes the grief hits you when you least expect it, taking your breath away and leaving you sobbing when you thought you had it all under control.

Death seems such a difficult concept for me to get my head around. Regardless of religious belief, how is that someone can be here and then not? How is it possible that I can’t pick up the phone and call her for a quick chat? And when I visit my Papa, surely she’s just down the hall putting the washing away, about to come through the door and ask me about my day. It’s as if I can close my eyes and hear her, smell her, feel her right there. It was her birthday last week. Lockie (almost 4) asked if we could just call her, just for a minute, just to say happy birthday. My darling boy, I wish so much that we could.

Nana and Lockie

After she had been told there was nothing the doctors could do she talked openly of death. She told me it made her sad to think that my boys wouldn’t remember her. Nana, I promise you with all my heart they will know all about you. They may not remember you in person but they will know, from my stories and the photos and videos, what an amazing Great Nana they had. What an amazing, funny, loving, strong and talented person you were. I promise you, my Nana.

Nana and Lockie 2