I wish I could talk to my nan now, and ask her more focussed questions about life. I want 35 year old me to see life through her eyes. I did not have these questions in my early 20s. Did I learn everything I could learn with the time I had? I don’t think I came close.
On November 13, 2017 my grandmother Doris passed away in her home of natural causes. She was 88 years old and left behind 12 children with large families. We will all miss her dearly.
Here is my personal tribute to my nan, which I read aloud at her funeral.
Most people get nervous when they have to speak in front of a crowd, but in this case, the crowd is almost all family. Whether you’re one of 12 children or their spouses, to grandchildren, to friends and neighbours and so on.
Nan had a small, quiet life, but enormous in impact. There are grandchildren and great grandchildren, stretched all over Canada that I’ve never even met, people who wouldn’t be here had it not been for her and pop. People who are making a difference in others lives, whether it’s as a doctor or a librarian, as a security guard or a hospital worker, there are all sorts. The butterfly effect of classic love.
I know each of you have memories of nan that you’ll hold on to as days go by. There are distinct things that always come to mind when I think of her. It’s the sound of a teacup as it scrapes across the brim of a saucer. The flick of a towel fresh off the line being folded. The vision of her sitting in her armchair looking out the window toward Frankie’s Cove.
It was the times we would laugh about technology and how magical and strange it was to see and hear yourself on tv. It was the way to make doughboys for pea soup and knowing when to add the vegetables to the pot on a Sunday morning. It’s the sound of the fisheries broadcast and the talks of who has their clothes out on the clothes lines at what time of day. It was the phone ringing from a son or daughter every other day, the tightly knit mittens and embroidered cloths. It was the tiniest things that a lot of people overlook, that is what made up Doris Poole.
There’s a lot of magic in everyday life, and nan embodied that. Nan made me appreciate that. And I want to take this moment to tell you that this is how it should be. Sometimes life can get very complicated and we forget that the small simple moments like sharing a cup of tea with a friend can be the best medicine you could ask for. To honour my nan and all that she was, I ask that you remember this when you leave here.
You don’t need to be the smartest person in the room. You don’t need a giant bank account or the nicest clothes and accessories. All you need is someone who loves you, even if that someone is yourself. Remember all the tiny moments with people you care about, because they end up being the best moments of your life.
It’s 12:36 on a Thursday night, but it’s okay because this is holiday time. It should be okay at any time; feelings are important. I’m here, tears in my eyes, thinking about my grandfather.
As I type, my grandmother is sleeping in her bed, where she’s been for over five years since my grandfather died. At first I wrote ‘passed on,’ but I’m still not exactly sure where or what we pass on to.
I’m sitting here wondering what my pop would think of of what I’m doing in my life today. If he’d approve of my choices, my work, my hair, my truck, every last little thing. I know he’d poke fun at me for still being fat haha. I can joke about it now, but it was a tough pill to swallow growing up.
I remember shortly after he died I visited his shed alone. That’s where I go to remember him, where I remember him best… leaning over the counter tinkering with a wood project. I walked into the shed, no longer alive but still with the same scent, and the floor made a big crack sound. I burst into laughter then and there, that was his way of saying, “yep, still fat I see.”
I don’t know why all of this is coming to me now at this time. If I had to guess, I’d say it’s because my Nan’s health is on a steady decline and we’re all pretty powerless to stop it. I have very fond memories of both my nan and pop, ones I’ll hang on to as the days get harder.
When I was leaving home for the first time (my failed attempt at art school circa 2004) pop wanted to speak to me alone. This was a buzz amongst the family because he never made such a request outright. I recall the blisteringly hot day sitting down on the steps outside, Aunt Lucy peering through the storm door. Pop took my hand and told me to ‘be a good girl,’ and handed me a roll of quarters. He said, “I want you to promise me one thing,” and I said, “name it,” and he said, “Never ever ever, ever, start smoking.”
Some of you might have read that and had a little chuckle, some of you might have taken it super seriously; me, I took it seriously. I’ve never had a cigarette in my life. My pop smoked and chewed tobacco for many many years and this caused him to have severe lung problems. While it was not his cause of death, it caused him to have breathing problems and he suffered every day because of it.
There are things that come to my mind daily that make me thankful for the lessons my grandparents taught me. Sometimes it’ll be something simple; i’ll be standing in the doorway at the bar where I work on Friday’s and someone will blow smoke in my face or make a rude comment, and I’ll hear nan say, “turn a deaf ear to it…” or I’ll be preparing dinner for myself and I’ll notice I’m timing my ingredients and stirring things the exact way my nan taught me.
Tonight turned into much more of an emotional time than I thought it would. As I sit here re-reading this blog post and thinking back on all the good and bad times my family has shared over the years I always come back to one thing: appreciation. I would not be who I am, where I am today if it had not been for the love of two ironbound Labradorians, two soft spoken, secretly funny, forever caring young people. I will always love my grandparents because they are me. And I am them. These are the things that I know.