Today we said goodbye to my grandmother. I said a few words at her funeral, and since that was a pretty new experience for me I want to repeat them here. I’m a pretty lousy public speaker so my words always sound a lot better written down than they do said aloud. Plus I just want somewhere to put these words down in stone, for Nan.
As a kid there are always those constants in your life, the things and the people that you know will be there. Nan was one of those constants for me. If the family was getting together we’d always see Nan and Pop’s old car pulling up. I remember going to their place, eating Nan’s baked dinners at that big glass table, and playing out in that big backyard, pulling the beans off the trees and pretending to light Pop’s old lanterns. I remember walking with Nan around Westmead, through the oval and up to the shops and back. I remember that every birthday and every Christmas without fail, I would always get a card in Nan’s unique handwriting. Even when I’m at home, there’s always something I’m using or looking at that Mum will point to and say “Nanny Marj knitted that” or “Nanny Marj gave you that”. She was an indispensible part of my childhood.
But I think it’s only really as an adult that you see the people in your family as real people, and start to see what they’re actually like and how you reflect them. To my younger eyes I suppose all of the books in her house were just part of the furniture, because I never realised until recently that Nan was such a prolific reader. She amassed this incredibly vast collection of books, literally hundreds of novels, and I know just how many hundreds because they are all currently residing on my back deck. I love collecting books too, and so I see her collection and think ahh, that must be where I got it from. Nan and I: hoarders of books. It’s nice to know that we share that, that she passed that part of herself onto me, because it’s a part of myself that I really like. So as I go through them, and pick them up and read them, it feels like a shared experience between her and I, something we do together even though she’s not around anymore.
Nan once said to my cousin Kate that her son Cooper being born helped to pull her through after Poppy Joe passed away. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Cooper was born on the 1st of June, just like Nan was. I think it was a deliberate sign from God, a symbol of new life in the family for Nan, at a time when she needed one in the wake of losing Pop. I know Nan always felt such pride and joy for her grandkids, and great-grandkids. And what’s more is that I know that all her grandkids and great-grandkids got such joy from her as well. It was always good to see her, it made the occasion that much more special if Nan was coming or we got to see Nan. And the same goes for her great-grandchildren; I know that Kate’s kids loved nothing more than spending time with ‘Nanny O’Loughlin’.
The last time I saw Nan was for her birthday a couple weeks ago, her 95th birthday, where we threw her a little party and she got to smash an ice cream cake. She was so happy to see everyone, but what I remember is that I was holding her hand for a good while there, and she was holding on so tightly. I’m not sure why that sticks in my mind or what I’m trying to say, but I’ve been thinking about it since then, just how much strength she still had to hold onto me with.
I remember I learned from Nan and Pop when I was little that “saying hooroo” meant to say goodbye. We’d all shuffle out to the verandah and say hooroo to whoever was going home. So hooroo Nan, we love you and we miss you.