Celebrating Life

Celebrating life header shows a field full of brightly coloured tulips in all of my grans favourite colours.
Image by Olga Ustynova

Last time I ventured into retelling some of the story at the backbone of the blog, celebrating the life I have, was the post mischief managed. I shared how my tasks, even the really tricky ones, have really developed me, and how I love to be working hard for him. The impact that Sir and his tasks has had on me is huge, whether he is close by, or whether we are walking separate paths, that influence and confidence remains.

Never more so than when my gran passed away.

I’ve been delaying sharing this story for a while now. Not intentionally, she was an amazing woman and I’m proud of this tale, but because life kept getting in the way. But when I realised that today is the fourth anniversary of her death I realised that this is exactly how it is meant to be.

My gran was born in the same year as the Queen, 1926. So when she died four years ago, at the age of ninety one, it wasn’t unexpected. She also had a “little thing” in her chest, which we were so pleased she died with rather than of. However, that issue meant she was prescribed some whacking great painkillers, and she and I enjoyed some fun chats on the phone. Not only deaf as a post she was, at that point, high as a kite! Took me back to my raver days.

It was shortly after 4.30am that I woke up.

My dreams had obviously taken me to her, and I woke with love and sadness in my heart. I popped mum a message to say I was thinking of her, and went back to sleep. Rolling forward to 8.00am, sorting the boys for school, my phone rang. It was mum, my gran had died in the night, at about 5am. Mum hadn’t wanted to disturb me any earlier as she knew I’d be busy with the children. I also thought she had needed that window to hold herself, to begin processing her own pain before she had to be mum again.

While discussing funeral plans later in the day I found myself asking if anything needed doing. Mum said there was a poem that my aunty had wanted to be read so I offered. But mum was insistent that it wasn’t her decision and I’d have to talk to my aunty, so I did. But my cousin had already volunteered, she told me, followed by “but you could write something if you like?”

My vanilla world doesn’t know I write, and vanilla me would have run to hide at the mere suggestion of writing something, anything, to sum up that amazing woman. And to then stand up in front of a packed church. And it would be rammed, she was well-known and well-liked in the town she lived. But timid, vanilla me doesn’t hold much sway anymore. And Miss Barefoot was firmly in charge! “Of course, I can do that” was my reply, and I set about writing my most important piece to date.

Now, my gran was tiny. Five feet and half an inch.

But while she was small in stature she had the biggest heart, and positively glimmered with mischief, hope and integrity. I was going to be reading before the final prayer. My words would be her big send off, how could I capture her spirit in a personal farewell in front of hundreds of her friends, family, former colleagues…? I had this belief in myself though, a knowing that I would be able to find the right words. For her.

The day arrived and I supported mum on our way to the crematorium. As the last of my grandparents, I felt myself levelling up through the generations. Crossing the line into proper adulthood. I’d not shared any of my words with anyone who would be attending, just one or two trusted friends who checked for flow and relevance. I’d folded the piece of paper in my pocket and was all set.

Whenever I attend a funeral it gives me a fresh opportunity to grieve for all of the loved ones I’ve lost, particularly my Dad. But it also gives me the opportunity to celebrate the life, the person who is no longer with us. For me this meant turning up in a bright orange and magenta blouse, her favourite colours. Obviously I was in a skirt, and as it was such a hot day my shoes came off as I sat in the front pew holding my mums hand.

I didn’t feel nervous, grief is a funny thing, it removed all of my inhibitions.

Instead I listened to the vicar, the songs, the prayers. I watched my cousin, in her little black dress and polished make up, as she read the poem. I remember feeling gratitude that she’d got in there first. The dirge was not how I wanted my gran to be remembered, she had such a sparkle, right up to the very end. Had my cousin not volunteered first that may have been the final part of the day to celebrate all that she was.

Padding over to the lectern, seeing the hundreds of faces for the first time, I looked over to my left. To my gran. But her coffin was so small. I know, she was tiny! But her coffin was smaller still. I got slightly caught up in my own confusion. The strangeness of such a lot of love fitting into such a small box and found myself sharing those thoughts with the congregation as tears fell down my cheeks.

They were quiet tears though, the kind that don’t stop you breathing or talking.

Wiping my nose on my sleeve I made a start reading my lovingly crafted words. I don’t recall hearing any personal eulogies in my life, so I have no idea if I was supposed to bring smiles or tears. I finished up with a wondering if “we could all make our time on this planet a little more [special name removed] because if she lives on in our hearts we haven’t lost her.” Then I took a last disbelieving look at the coffin, reaching out to touch her as I passed, sat down with my mum and held her as grief rattled through her.

We will all love and lose people over our time on this planet. It is the only certainty of life, after all. That we will die, I mean. Had she died any earlier, I wouldn’t have offered to read the poem. I couldn’t have ever believed I’d be able to write a heartfelt piece for my wonderful, patient, non-judgemental and elderly grandmother. Much less be able to stand in front of hundreds of people I’d kind of known throughout my existence, all while celebrating her life.

But the belief that I was gaining in myself worked like magic…

Through tasks, kink and just learning to be unapologetically me I was gaining the confidence to put myself out there. It’s been four years now, and as mum and I remembered her last Friday we were celebrating her life once more. While we both miss her (mum lost her main purpose and has never fully found her feet again since) it is so nice to be able to look back on a woman who was such a shining example of how to love and be kind.

Every Damn Day in June

If you’re in any doubt about my gran’s slightly off the wall sense of humour and zest for life, check out her choice of celebratory final song for the service.

Celebrating Life is the next chapter of the story behind the blog. Tinsel In My Letterbox is the next instalment.

Or perhaps you might enjoy this post. All It Takes Is One Leap Of Faith. Published for EDDIJ2020


  1. Beautiful post, which reminded me of speaking at mom’s funeral and like you said here, I had no nerves, and my tears didn’t choke me. Celebrating life is what we all should do, and remembering the generations before us, for they gifted us our lives.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.