This is a blog post about the loss of my Gran McElhinney. I have been putting off talking about it since the day it happened – 5th of March 2015. The truth is, I don’t think I’ll ever accept it. I don’t think I’ll ever be ready to talk about it. I’m going to do my best to open up about it through writing. I want to talk about it, openly. This is going to be an extremely personal piece of writing.
It was the 5th of March, 2015. I was awoken abruptly by my dad who seemed very distressed. It was a Thursday and it had just gone 9am. He told me that the hospital had called and asked for the family to come up right away. My Gran was in hospital but she was doing fine. Mum and dad had visited the day before and she was looking radiant. Why all the urgency? I had never seen my dad like this before. He began to cry as he spoke the words to me, “Charlene, I think she’s dying”. No. No. No. I couldn’t fathom it. Not my Gran. She was the strongest lady I knew. She had been through everything. She’s doing fine.
I immediately threw myself out of bed and threw on the clothes that were lying on a pile on the floor from the night before. I couldn’t care less about my appearance; I wanted to be with my Gran. My beautiful, precious Gran. My favourite lady in the whole wide world. Always has been – always will be.
My father, mother and I all rushed out the door and my dad drove us to the hospital. On route, I received a text from my auntie (my dad’s sister) and it read “She’s away.” We all guessed what she meant but refused to accept it. None of us spoke the whole way there. You could cut the tension with a knife. There was a profound silence the whole way. We arrived at the hospital, my mum and dad held hands, I tagged along behind and we quickly made our way into the hospital. My stomach was doing backflips, the palms of my hands and back of my neck sweating, a massive lump in my throat. I didn’t know what to think or what to feel. She’s away? Away where? Maybe it was autocorrect, I thought. Mobile phones nowadays always try and correct spelling. It didn’t make sense. What did she mean?
We were met at the hospital by a doctor. My mother, father and I were took into a small room. The doctor broke the devastating news that my Gran McElhinney had passed away. We had just missed her by half an hour. My heart sank. We all began to cry. We tried to comfort one another but couldn’t find the words. Next, we were told we could go in and see her.
As we walked into the room, my father broke down. He had to leave the room again. He couldn’t look at his mother like this. My auntie and my mother were crying hysterically. None of us knew what to do. Again, trying to comfort one another but feeling completely numb and broken. I sat beside my Gran and I held her precious hand, I could still feel her body heat. Her eyes were shut and I was just praying for them to open again. I love you, Gran. I said, over and over and over again. She looked so fragile and as beautiful as ever. How can someone look so beautiful on their deathbed? I was in a state of shock. It broke my heart. I no longer felt myself. I had to stand outside the room for a moment to take this all in.
My mother, father and auntie were in a state. I made the phone calls to all of the family to let them know the devastating, tragic news. My brother made his way to the hospital, along with my cousin and other Auntie. It broke all of our hearts to see her this way. What broke my heart the most, was taking off my Gran’s jewellery. I had been asked to do it and I knew my Gran would rather I did it than a nurse. So I tried. My hands were shaking and my insides were all over the place. I couldn’t do it. I just couldn’t do it.
My Gran was such a proud lady. Always glamorous, always impeccable. Even on her death bed she looked as beautiful as ever. She held her rosary beads in her hands, still gripping on to them. She looked so peaceful. I asked for a few minutes on my own with her and I lay my head gently on her chest and cried like I’ve never cried before. I lay beside her and cuddled her. I wanted to stay there – forever – and never let go.
One week later, I visited my Gran one last time at the funeral parlour. She looked absolutely stunning. An angel. Family were allowed to come and see her one last time, meanwhile “You’re the first, my last, my everything” by Barry White was played softly in the background. That was what my Gran wanted. It was my Gran and Papa’s song and it was very dear to her. It always brought a smile to her face. It really broke my heart leaving her that day. I knew I would never see her again. My brother and I went in together and we both cried and comforted one another. I couldn’t find the correct words to say. My Gran knew I loved her with all of my heart, soul, body and mind. She knew that.
Next we had my Gran’s funeral. It all seemed so fast. It was a blur. I was in a state of shock. I couldn’t accept that this was my Gran’s funeral. At the service (which was a beautiful service – my Gran had a wonderful send off) I done a reading. I wasn’t sure if I could manage it but I knew my Gran would have wanted me to. When the priest asked me I said yes immediately. I managed to hold myself together to say the reading; and what beautiful words they were. “Alive or dead – we belong to the Lord.” Romans 14: 7~9.
From this day, my mother, father and I had the difficult task of cleaning out my Gran’s house. My Gran had heaps of things. The house was absolutely full. My Gran and Papa kept everything. The hardest part, for me and mum, was going through my Gran’s clothes. It was truly heartbreaking. She had so many glamorous, stunning and immaculate clothes. Some of which she had not even the chance to wear. My Gran had drawers upon drawers of make up alone. She always bought the best of everything. She always looked perfect and took great pride in her appearance. (It’s breaking my heart talking in past tense as I still can not believe she is gone).
For weeks, mum, dad and I went to my Gran’s house and had to empty the house from top to bottom. My auntie also helped out as she had many of her own belongings there too. It was all just so heartbreaking as everything was sentimental and valuable. We would be emptying a drawer or cupboard and stumble across something so meaningful and it would stop us in our tracks. I felt a strong presence of my Gran in the house whilst my parents and I done this task. I knew she was watching over us and helping us through it. It was something that had to be done and she would have been glad it was us doing it. It never made it any easier though. It was the most difficult thing I have ever done, or will ever have to do, in my life.
Today, was the last time in my entire life that I would stand in my Gran McElhinney’s home. The new people are moving in tomorrow. My Gran passed in March and this is now nearly November. It’s all happened so fast. My heart really is broken. It’s affected my parents and I really bad but also brought us closer together. We have all had to remain strong throughout the whole process for the sake of each other. Today, my mum, dad and I wanted to go to my Gran’s house for one last time – just to say goodbye. It was extremely sad. I didn’t want to leave. Although it was empty; I could just feel my Gran’s presence. Every part of me felt empty. So many beautiful, precious memories in this home. I just can’t accept that I’ll never be back there – that I’ll never see my Gran again.
Losing someone is a dreadful, tragic thing. I have idolised my Gran ever since I was a young girl. She thought the world of me and I had a relationship with her that I will NEVER have with anyone else that I encounter in my life. She was special. She was inspirational. She was hilarious, perfect, wise and strong. I can’t possibly explain in words how wonderful she was. She was something else. Everyone thought so highly of her. I spoke about my Gran constantly, I bragged about her, I was always so proud of her – I still am!
Nothing will ever be the same again. Christmas will never be the same again. I will never be the same again. My family and I are dreading Christmas this year. I have no idea how we will get through it. People say that time is a great healer; however I don’t think it is getting any easier. I miss my Gran more and more each day. I visit her grave constantly with flowers. She always said before she died,”I hope when I die there is always flowers at my grave.” There will be, Gran. I’ll make sure of it.
I think of my Gran, every day. I believe she sends me signs. I believe she is watching over me. I hope that when I go to heaven; she is the first person that I meet. I love you Gran, I always will. I will miss you eternally. Xx