and so it goes

alice in wonderland

Yesterday I got to say my final goodbyes to yia-yia. I wasn’t expecting to write a follow up piece, yet neither was I prepared for the anxiety and barrage of emotions I would feel following her death.

It might sound selfish, but I couldn’t help thinking of myself in the equation; my relationship with my mother and her being so many thousands of miles away in the UK, the cruel and transitory nature of life and death, reflecting on my own life thus far and how much I identified with my grandmother’s spontaneity and her joie de vivre. I was also wracked with guilt, for I had not been to visit her in her final weeks in hospital, having been ill myself for 10 days during that time and working. I guess I was also finding excuses not to go, the fact that the hospital was far away and that visiting hours were short. In reality, I didn’t think I could face seeing her tubed up to the hilt so I chickened out. My last visit to the old people’s home had not been a pleasant one.

I realised I omitted several things in my homage to Alicia. For many years she ran a successful bookshop, which, although tucked away in a sleepy precinct, had its loyal customers. To this day my mother still has some of the embossed stationary. My brother also made an interesting point in an email to me, pointing out that the move to Rhodes may have been unusual but how many people wished they had done something similar rather than just dream about it? I can certainly relate to this with the reactions of friends and acquaintances when I took the decision to move to Buenos Aires.’ You’re brave’ and ‘I’m envious’ was the general consensus. Yet strangely, I felt neither brave nor lucky, just resolute about my need to go to Argentina, and certain I had exhausted London, the rest I would make up as I went along. In the same way, Alicia didn’t agonise over decision making, she just followed her heart.

Yesterday was the first time I looked death in the face, literally. In spite of the somberness of the occasion, I found myself making light of death at various times during the day. As I sat in the waiting room of the funeral director’s office and my grandfather dealt with the paperwork, I spotted a desktop calendar. Every month was a delectable take on the coffin building process with full colour prints to illustrate. Coffin fun for all the family, I thought. I stole June for posterity.

My grandfather had organised for he and I to have a brief moment alone with my granny before she was transported to the crematorium as there wasn’t to be a service. As I entered the room, my instinct was to recoil in horror as I was confronted with an open casket, something I was not mentally prepared for. Having never seen a dead body before, I turned my back and steeled myself to deal with what I was about to witness. Yet as I gingerly approached the coffin, my fear and anxiety dissipated. She looked angelic and so at peace, or at any rate, this shell of my grandmother did. Although I am essentially agnostic, I had the pervading feeling that her essence or spirit or whatever it was that had injected life into her body had long since departed. She looked delicate and fragile like a waxwork doll. For those ten minutes, as my grandfather gripped my hand tight and we said our goodbyes, time stood still.


3 Comments on “and so it goes”

  1. Rosie says:

    My love, I’m so sorry to hear your news 😦 My thoughts are with you all right now.
    You’ve written a lovely tribute, your grandma would approve I’m sure 🙂 xxx

  2. Rebecca says:

    Hi Van, it’s Becca, Rosie’s friend. Just wanted to say that your homage to your gran has brought tears to my eyes – what a beautifully honest and wonderful piece. I too lost my grandmother this year, she was a tiny lady with a larger than life personality, a true northern matriarch! This weekend i’m travelling to Manchester, where she lived, for the first time since the funeral and I know that the sense of loss will creep into every moment, but remembering her and spending time with my family will be bittersweet but beautiful.

    I hope you are well, lovely girl. Big love flying it’s way down to argentina for you and your family.


    ps: a friend of mine has just relocated on her own to buenos aires – if you fancy meeting up with her for a drink i know she would really appreciate it.


  3. amy says:

    van, i love your writing. i did not realise this was the first time you had faced a dead body…… it is an important thing to go through, intense. alicia looks a lovely lady,

    love you very much, besos

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