Sunday, May 27, 2012

The passing of my Gran

My Gran
For the last couple of years my Gran has been getting worse in health and on Friday, 11th May, 2012 at 10.15 am GMT, she passed away aged 94.  She had lived on her own until January of 2011 and did not complain too much when her kids moved back in to help!  My mother and uncle (Rob) spent a week on and a week off sharing Gran's house, looking after her.  But now that is over.  I was asked to speak  at her funeral and two stories came to my mind, the second my brother reminded of, and I thought I would share what I said at her funeral just a few days ago.

I loved my Gran and Grandad (who died in 1981 at almost 80 years of age).  Sometimes I would cycle down to their house, sometimes I would walk, and once in a while I would drive with friends if we were passing  by on the way somewhere, just to say 'hi'.  Gran was always good for a cup of tea and biscuits (English cookies). My friends would suffer my forced visits to my grandparents because of the treats, as well as them being fun to be around.  I was in my late teens on one of the first visits with my friends and I began to hand out the chocolate fingers my Gran made whilst she brought in the tea.  Gran used to make wonderful snacks. My personal favourites were biscuits made of oats and had a 1/2 cherry in the center.  Once the chocolate fingers had been passed around, I began to hand around a plate full of these wonderful, soft, oat biscuits with the cherry in the middle.  "Anyone for a titty biscuit?" I asked, for that was what they were called.  They had always been called that, and to me it was just a name with no meaning.  But to my teenage friends who had never seen them before - well, there were some slack jaws and some snickering! "What?" I asked.  One of my friends said: "Titty biscuits?" and held one up.  The penny dropped.  I looked at Gran and she was smiling, pouring tea.  I was mortified, she was giggling.  And from then on, when my friends came with me to Gran and Grandad's house, they were always sure to ask if there were any titty biscuits to be had!

When I last visited Gran in January last year, we got talking about cars.  She had mostly had what might be classified as little racers! Gran wasn't reckless, but she really liked to drive.  She stopped driving when she knew she would was not safe driving.  There are many elderly drivers who could take a lesson from her there.  And  I remember that my Gran was good driver and probably would have been a racing driver if she was born in a different generation.
A very nice Ford Anglia - Gran's was white!

This goes back to when Gran was driving her beloved Ford Anglia.  A wonderful little car with fins; a wonderful little car that in 1966 won the British Saloon Car Championship.  The Anglia has also been in movies such as 'Harry Potter' (the car that flew), and 'Blow Up' with Vanessa Redgrave and David Hemmings (one of Uncle Rob's favourite movies).  Gran loved that car.  W
hen Gran drove, she never went over the speed limit, but stayed right on it.  And when Gran got to traffic lights, she would, of course, stop at the red lights never running them. The amber lights, however, were different!

This time, Gran must have had enough of my brother and me and was trying to get to Mum's as soon as possible.  We were sitting in the back seat in a car that had no rear seat belts and certainly no headrests. I was sitting in the middle of the back seats, my favourite spot, no doubt with arms on the back of the front seats, looking alternately between the speedometer and speed limit signs. Gran was coming towards a set of traffic lights.  They were green.  Then they turned to amber and Gran sped up.The amber light turned red.  And Gran would not run a red light and so she braked. Hard. Really hard.

I remember we careened to a stop, no doubt JUST on the line!  I do not remember the car skidding, nor do I remember bouncing off Gran's arm, but I do remember that I did not stay on the back seat as the car came to an abrupt halt.  I had been propelled between the front seats and took rest in the passenger foot well in a tidy shaking ball!  I imagine my brother wondering, gleefully, if I were still alive!

Gran calmly said: "Are you alright, dear?"  and helped me out of the well and gently helped back over the front seats into the rear of the car.  My brother has similar driving skills which I am sure come from Gran, inspired by that amazing stop.  "Wow" I think was all he said.  I always liked the Anglia, despite it's grumpy look.  When I had talked to Gran about it she said: "Oh, I did love that car."

I can imagine Gran now, freed from her body at last, to be the young spirit she always was.  I can see her driving off at top speed in her Anglia to get to those who have been waiting for her for so long, so happy to have her with them again....maybe with a tin of titty biscuits and chocolate fingers sitting beside her in the passenger seat.

Uncle Rob, Mum (Di) and Gran (Daphne), 1990
Many people shared memories of Gran at the funeral and afterwards at the pub.  Not just my Mum, Uncle Rob and cousin Kat, who also delivered eulogies at the service, but others who came up to us to tell us their memories.  Some inspired or remembered (triggered) by what we had said at the funeral.  We found out where the name titty biscuits came from.  There were children (now in their sixties and older) of people who knew Gran and Grandad who came to say how much they were loved.  I learned more about Gran that day than I ever thought I could.  She truly left a positive mark on many people, and a legacy to live up to.

Love you, Gran.

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