I suppose this is an open letter to you, today is the 6th October 2018, this is the day we lost you too many years ago. I know you know that I loved you very much, but I never got the chance to tell you exactly how much you meant to me or how grateful I am for your teachings.
For as long as I can remember I looked forward to your phone calls, your visits to Belfast and our summer visits to you in Highbridge, Somerset. You were my idol and I looked up to you so much. You were the epitome of graceful, beautiful, intelligent and poised.
I always wanted to be a nurse when I grew up so that I could make you proud. I sit here, on your anniversary, at the age of 31, sobbing like a kid because the pain I feel by your absence is something I’ll never be able to describe. I’m so proud when I get to explain that my middle name, Esmeé, is after my beautiful and amazing Nanny that I absolutely adore.
I don’t think you could ever comprehend the impact you had on the family. You were absolutely adored by absolutely every single one of us, from blood relation to our partners. You were and are so LOVED. I miss you more than I could ever put into words, there is this huge hole in my life where you should be and no amount of writing, friends, love, work, or study will ever be able to replace it.
Words will never, ever be enough to express the loss I feel not having you around. You taught me how to be brave, how to be compassionate, how to not take shite from anyone, to be intelligent and work hard to be a success. I would be nothing without you, I miss you so much and thinking about you every single day.
I miss talking to you, reading poetry by Helen Steiner Rice together, writing letters to one another, talking about our Italian & Maltese heritage and teaching me Italian, having a Babycham whilst playing Scrabble or Gin Rumee. You were always encouraging me to read as many books as my wee brain could manage, to be creative and sketch, always buying me books, art supplies and colouring books so that I would sketch, paint and colour pictures for you.
When I was deciding on my faith, you were there. Never judging, but always encouraging me to know my own mind and have my own beliefs. When I decided on Atheism you were never cruel, never judgmental and never pushed any kind of faith or religious teaching on me, for that I’m eternally grateful.
I still feel like a massive piece of me is missing without you. I love you so much. You were the best Nanny, Mum, Wife, Sister, Daughter, Friend and Nurse in the entire world and no one will ever replace you. My heart is still broken like it was yesterday,
The disease that took you from us was cruel, it slowly stole your mind, your beautiful, intelligent, amazing mind, and you forgot us. You forgot those that loved you so much until the end. You thought I was your smiley nurse, not your second eldest granddaughter. It killed me, Nanny, not that you forgot me, but that it had stolen your mind.
I became a very, very angry and hateful person for a good while after that. I’d lock myself in my room when I was on my own, with just Honey for company and I’d scream and cry until I had nothing left.
I didn’t want to be there when you passed, I felt like I’d lost you years prior and that the frail woman lying in the bed surrounded by her family that worshipped her, wasn’t you. It was just a shell, my beautiful Nan had gone.
It’s taken me years to try to move on, but the pain I feel as each birthday, anniversary and Christmas passes seems to make the loss worse. I remember everything about you, from your wee laugh, cheeky winks, your love of condensed milk with your tea, your love of Turkish Delights even though they taste like actual flowers, your favourite wee snack being wheaten bread with butter and sometimes jam if you were feeling sassy.
That you’d only ever wash with Dove Soap, your shampoo had to be Pantene, your go-to moisturiser being Nivea. Your wee feet with the bunions I was weirdly obsessed with from your years as a nurse and wearing shit shoes because of it, your love of Celine Dion’s My Heart Will Go On. You know I still can’t listen to that song without breaking down into floods of tears?
I still have your letters, the last Easter and birthday card you sent me before the disease took your memory, I still see your face so clearly, like it was just yesterday. I write this in floods of tears, thinking of all the little things you did, all your little quirks, I can still remember your little flat in Highbridge like I been there yesterday, it’s the only positive memory I have from childhood and the only one I remember vividly.
I thought recently of the pond out your back, you know the one you told me to stay away from? The one me and Jamie couldn’t get enough of because there were frogs in it? Do you remember that we managed to get hold of glass jars and filled them with tadpoles?
Then what felt like to me days later, but could have been longer, they turned into frogs and ended up escaping, ending up in your porch and the more unfortunate ones jumping to their death on Maureen’s car? Me and Jamie got our sense of adventure from you, always making the little things into adventures for us. Encouraging us to explore and teaching us both so much.
Or, our trips to Western Super Mare, when you would build sandcastles with us, make sure I always got to ride the donkey because even though I was on holiday, I had to practice my equestrian and because I adored horses and donkeys. We had amazing times, the only time I was ever truly happy as a child was when you were there, because with you there I was safe, with you there, I was loved.
I remember when I got my first “Your Body” magasine that you bought me, then the video of Once Upon a Time… Life – The Body Sentinels. I actually found the bloody video of it on Youtube! I would have loved to introduce you to Youtube, you’d love the Psychology videos and history documentaries. No doubt there will be a shit tonne of old school Countdown episodes there that you’d no doubt completely smash using your wee notepad and pen.
You always suffered from your Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and I used to think “I really hope I don’t have trouble pooping as a big girl”. Guess what Nanny, I’m constantly fucking constipated. How it skipped mother and ended up being given to me, I’ll never know. I manage it though, like you I can sink a bowl of Bran Flakes no issues and keep my fibre intake up. I never thought that your IBS would be the thing to end your life, to be honest, I think I just expected you to live into your 100’s because we needed you to.
You could never get over why, as a child, all I wanted was fruit and salads made in Woolworths. That I was probably the least fussy of all the grandkids when it came to eating my vegetables. I always remember seeing how happy you were when I’d talk about how much I loved Broccoli (weirdest child, ever) and you’d always tell me how good it was for iron, and how that impacted with my blood cells, knowing that I was really into Science, especially Biology.
I may not have become a nurse, but I hope my chosen career as a Psychologist will make you proud. I hope that we all make you proud, that you watch over your remaining daughter and son, that you are watching over the partners left behind like Auntie Jill, my dad, Auntie Linda, that you are watching over your grandkids, and now great grandkids. I hope that we are doing you proud.
You were more than just our matriarch, more than just our teacher, our source of comfort, you were our life and you were my absolute everything. I’m sorry for never having the words to tell you how much you meant to me, I’m sorry for any time I let you down and I’m sorry I didn’t fight harder when I figured out before the rest that the Alzheimers was stealing your mind. You will never know the anger, pain and hatred I feel for not fighting harder for you, I should have, maybe we could have given you more time.
I’m sorry I didn’t push harder when the nursing home left you sitting in a chair with a ruptured bowel being poisoned from within, in so much pain, but having lost the ability to speak in that beautiful, soft voice you had, being in so much pain and having no one help you. I’m just so sorry, we all let you down.
I try to remember the happy times, the cuddles, your teachings, I try every day to be a better person, to be a compassionate and empathetic person, to never judge a book by it’s cover like you taught me, to accept everyone and everything for what they are wholeheartedly, to trust until I’m given a reason not to trust, to see the best in people, to be a loving person and to make sure the people I love know how much I love them, because as you taught me, you never know what might happen tomorrow.
I love you, Nanny, I love you so much and I’ll miss you every single day until we meet again.
Ti Amo Tanto