from left to right – Stephanie, Jane, Nana and Charlotte at Scarborough for Nana’s 90th birthday
Stephanie (Granddaughter) and I (Jane, Daughter) left the hospital that night thinking of the words “No tears. I don’t want any tears. I love you, and you”. Nana pointed her finger at us each in turn. That day she tried to get out of her bed.
“Where are you going Nana?”
“I’m going shopping.”
“What do you need to buy?”
“Stephanie needs more clothes, I’m taking her shopping.”
“But the shops close in ten minutes.”
“Well I need strawberries”, she pointed to Jane saying “You can run to the shops, go on run and get me some strawberries.”
Stephanie and I both smiled at each other as the medication took over and Nana drifted off to sleep again and we left the hospital.
We both went to our own houses and got into bed, but our instincts kicked in and I was wide awake when the phone rang. Nana’s breathing had changed. We had to get back to the hospital.
“Stephanie it’s time. We have to go back now.”
“I’m awake Mum. I’ll pick you up, I had a feeling so I went to bed in my clothes to wait.”
“No tears. I don’t want tears” rang through my head as Stephanie held Nana’s hand and I held her other hand waiting, watching every breath Nana took, each breath was taking longer and longer but when the next one came, we both gave a sigh of relief, but then it happened, the next breath never came, Nana had gone. “No tears. I don’t want tears.”
There wasn’t time for tears. Doctor’s certificate to collect, coroner to sign it off, registration of death, funeral to arrange, wake to arrange, must let friends and family know, need to contact the vicar.
“I have no time for tears. She didn’t want tears.”
The funeral was over but still “No time for tears. Nana didn’t want tears.”.
Need to sort Nana’s personal things out at the bungalow, need to get the estate agent to value, need to contact solicitor, need to find Nana’s will.
“No time for tears.”
I go round to Nana’s everyday to draw the curtains or leave a light on. I see her sitting in her chair, I see Grandpa tending to his fuchsias in the garden, they are both still here but something isn’t right, it’s too quiet.
“No time for tears.”
I have to sort Nana’s clothes out. I have to go through her private things. We had never had secrets but it didn’t feel right, they were Nana’s personal things, it felt wrong, but “No tears. I don’t want tears.”.
So I began to sort through Nana’s clothes, I smell them. Nana’s smell is still on them, the sweet perfume she wore that Stephanie used to buy her still lingered. I check her pockets, there was a silver coin or two in every coat pocket so I put them all in a little pot at the side of Nana’s bed.
“No tears. I don’t want tears.” kept going through my head as I put the clothes into black bin liners ready to take to the charity shop. Hanging in the wardrobe were two of Grandpa’s suits still. Nana had never been able to get rid of all Grandpa’s things, she did her best but it was too painful for her. Stephanie and I couldn’t do it either, so the suits now hang in Stephanie’s wardrobe as they held so many memories for her.
The little knick-knacks were boxed up ready once again for the charity shop. We kept what had been so very precious to Nana and those items are now on display in our own homes, each one having some meaning or memory.
Seeing furniture being taken to the homeless, the bungalow was now looking empty and finally her bed went. I stand in the living room just looking around, I walk through the bungalow visiting each room in turn, all so empty and then it happens, I can’t hold back the tears any longer.
“I’m sorry Nana, I know you are still here and Grandpa too. I can feel your presence. Why have you left us? You should be here for us always, a mum should be here for her daughter always, and my girls need you. Oh Nana.”
The sold sign goes up and suddenly it all seems to be final, one last thing we have to do is say goodbye to the place we had once loved so very much.
The kettle is boiling, there are little sandwiches and cakes on plates and we sit on the floor of the now empty living room and say a final goodbye to what was once our loving home.
“If Nana and Grandpa are watching us, they would be laughing and smiling at us” I say to my girls.
Charlotte, Stephanie’s sister has travelled from Newcastle to join us in our little tea party farewell. We pack up our belongings, take one more look around, I put the key in the door and as I turn it in the lock, knowing we would never be going back again, the tears flowed freely down our faces as we walked away. We still pass Nana’s bungalow and as we do so, point to it and say “That’s where our Nana and Grandpa used to live.”
Stephanie and Charlotte ready for the Great North Run raising money for Hayward House who looked after Nana