My grandmother passed away when I was 13.
She was one of those women who smiled even when the sky was overcast with great big depressing black clouds. The kind of woman who kept her cool even when the house and her life was chaotic. The kind who was generous even when she suffered and was thankful even on days when she was ill.
I don’t remember her even looking at someone angrily. And we did plenty to make her so.
The day she died, I remember my mother gently shaking me awake at six in the morning and telling me to get dressed. On an ordinary day I would have protested and resisted and asked why? But there was something in the quiet solemnity of her voice that begged no questions. I was 13 but I heard it almost as if she said it in so many words.
I dressed and we went to pay our last respects. I saw the body of the gentlest woman in the world laid out and I cried like a little baby. My mom let me be for a while and then said – Come on – you will be late. I asked for what? And she said – For your poetry competition. I looked at her incredulously – Do you still think I should go for that? And she said in the most tender voice possible – ‘Yes. Life goes on. You cannot do anything here. And she would have wanted you to go.’ I paraphrase of course – but I think I remember most of it correctly.
I tried hard to understand what my mother wanted me to know. And I think I got it.
It wasn’t an important exam or a life-altering competition. It was just one of those inter school things. The competition wasn’t important – the moving on was.
My grandmother laughed. She cried. She lived. And now she was gone.
It was the turn of the living now. To live.
I did go to that competition. I wrote a poem which won me the prize.
I wrote a poem on sunshine and the beach. On the day my grandmother died.