My grandma was like a warm spring breeze. So refreshing and always ready to caress you. She would greet you at her front door with a trademark ‘Hull-ooooh!’, followed by a squeeze so tight you almost felt your lungs would never recover. I adored being swept up in that exuberant love.
The day my grandma died I said, “This morning the world seems a little dimmer. We have lost one of our brightest sparks.” Nothing could sum it up better.
That was three months ago. Today is her birthday. She would have been 94.
I’ve thought about her a lot. Some days the grief is a gentle melancholy mist. Other days it is an ache in my side. And all this mixed together with the sweetest of memories.
Grandma was extraordinary. I’m not saying this just because she was my grandma. I’m saying it because I am certain she was extraordinary to this world. You see, she left a legacy of love. I can scarcely find the words for it. It was joy, warmth, humour and acceptance all woven richly together in her glorious laugh. It was the way she would say “Wonderful!” It was the twinkle in her eye. It was her belief in the precious value of each person on this earth.
Grandma was a stickler for remembering birthdays. Not just her 6 children or her 21 grandchildren, but every single one of her 34 great-grandchildren too. It was so important to her that we were remembered. She was the glue that held our large extended family together. She was determined to keep us glued – no matter how far we wandered.
And the thing is, I never remembered her birthday in reciprocation. Only in the last few years I made an effort to send cards or flowers… but mostly I was an unthoughtful grand-daughter. It is a weighty regret.
Grandma’s love extended far beyond the boundaries of her clan. She nurtured everyone she met. I could tell you about how she opened her home, how she befriended countless foreign students, how she mentored young Indigenous people (one in particular who went on to be a national leader and Australian of the Year) – but really, I don’t think Grandma would want me raving on like that. But I can tell you she was so much more than a farmer’s wife, a nurse, a mother, and a grandmother. Grandma changed the world one person at a time. With love. Profound love.
Today I’m remembering Grandma’s birthday. Even if it’s a little too little too late. I don’t think I will ever forget it now. I’m pouring myself some tea in one of her fine china cups and lifting it towards the sky. I’m closing my eyes and hearing her say “Wonderful!”
Happy Birthday Grandma Joyce. With lots of love.
* The title of this post is from the Deacon Blue song, ‘Gentle Teardrops’. One of my favourites.