joanie-kelly submitted a contest entry to Write a letter to a loved one that you lost and share how you are honoring their legacy/life 11 months, 1 week ago
Aunt M and Little Grandpa
Aunt M and Little Grandpa,
In the space of a week: August 2021 we lost you both. Granddad, 86, surrounded by the few loved ones which were Covid checked and in. The rest of us masked, shackled back, stifling the longing and love wanting to flood you back to life. And Aunt M, you, alone. Found on the floor by a random night-time shift nurse in a care home we never got to visit. Covid, yeah, f****** Covid and its quest to quell and squash all that love and thirst-quenching, irreversible time; such precious voids that we’ll never get back.
Some cultures cherish their elders with pride, devoting and relish their experiences. Maybe now we will take more notice of the current, invisible, older crew, still battling this life on planet Earth. Some, lost and alone, waiting for the day to die: waiting for a visitor to never arrive., as their memories fade and youth prevails- taking away that dignity we all think will last forever.
In my mind’s eye I see you, Little-Grandpa , wearing your leather jacket. You’re probably in your fifties and have a nice tan-not quite the same as I saw you lying there in the rest room. No boiled eggs were cooking for us, no cigarette smell or a boozy sniff of whiskey anymore. Instead, a frail, sunken body at rest. At peace. Wearing a smart suit, and the tie you wore for your wedding day back in the 50’s. My eyes, oh how they shone with pride and love and guilt for the time I had lost. My brother and I said he looked at peace and Uncle P- a heart on his sleeve, your youngest said: “I put lavender on him- he loved that smell.”
And well, Aunt M, you still live on, and I see you every day in my dining room. You see, as I helped to clear your house when you were forced to move into care, I kept that dresser and painted it ivory and changed the door handles to gold bunnies. You would love it: “Mave the Rave,” we call it. And, yes, it was me who kept those secret love letters from the love your life and photos of him looking rather dapper in his army suit. Yes, yes… it was me who put it in the coffin with you. You loved him, he loved you – but he couldn’t divorce her. That doesn’t matter now; perhaps you’ve hooked up somewhere fancy up there?
You lived how you wanted. You hoarded the things you loved. The letters of a secret love. The memories of postcards, random papers and even a shopping list from your mother – it must have been a tiny bit of paper we found from the 1940s, but I kept it. A letter now preserved from your brother to mother, from World War 2. Precious to you and I respect that. Maybe it was her handwriting that you wanted to remember. Love is very unusual.
Loudly and vibrantly I can hear your voice now more clearly than ever before.
“Don’t let a bloody bloke treat you like that. Oh how your Nanna loved you. She’d have eaten you up if she could have!”
And that’s the thing… the love, the care, that wholesome feeling of family…
The night before your funeral, we sat together. Sat opposite me. Drunk, again. And we chatted, which turned bitter and sour. Biting me, but I couldn’t really feel it. Numb and a bit weird, like a flag not knowing what to do without wind to move it.
“You don’t think I’ve got more mental health s*** to deal with than grief for your distant relatives?”
F******off, beyond belief.
My husband of 9 years; beloved of 17 years- and it had come to this.
You see, I thought it was my time to be hugged, consoled and not have to worry about being spoken to like this…
Epiphany illuminations eroded time and space between us. A salvo of rage, pounded inside me. Biting my tongue- for the day had to go ahead anyway.
The bits and bobs I had salvaged I wrapped at Christmas- a special brass ‘Golden Key’ (furniture key) I polished for my sister; and a tea set for my nieces to share and enjoy. My brother I gave a silver lighter I had found, the old brand of, ‘Ronson’. Not worth much in money. But who cared about that.
So, Aunt M and Granddad: for you I will live my life with hope and love in my heart. I will continue to follow your wisdom- those ‘distant relatives’ of mine.
The lyrics of your chosen song, ‘Time to say goodbye,’ ring loud and clear. It’s time.
See you on the other side.
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