She was a bold, intelligent and adventurous woman. In her life, Grandma travelled much of the UK, Europe, the US and Canada and always had a brilliant story to back that up. While there were, I am sure, occasional embellishments and exaggerations in such stories, she never failed to grab your attention when she told one and always had you going back for more.
She was musical, and could play the piano very well for much of her life. When my sister was young and receiving piano lessons at home, my Grandma was absolutely glued to watching her play and seeing the rapid progress she made. It wasn’t long before they started playing together, and I have wonderful memories of watching the two of them sat singing “as long as he needs me”, while my sister played.
She also loved musicals and going to shows. There was nothing quite like the joy of seeing her foot tap and face light up in response to a good song and dance, which is absolutely unforgettable and something I will really miss. In fact, popping a musical on has always been how she, my Grandad, Charlotte and I have wrapped up every one of the lunches we’ve had together!
My Grandma was a wonderfully proud and supportive person. I could share any dream I wanted with her and she would always believe, and make me believe, that it was possible- even if she didn’t really understand my interest. Whether it was ambitions to be a rock star, an actress, a chef or to travel to the far corners of Asia and Africa and try food unheard of, she made me believe I could do anything. There was one occasion, of course, where she responsibly brought me back down to earth, when I was 15 in classic teenage crisis of what I wanted to do when I left school and declared to her “I was thinking I would make a good Doctor”, not accounting for a moment my school grades in essential areas such as maths and science. In response to this, she patted my hand and said “Well, maybe something else, pet.”
My Grandma taught me that family comes first and love is all. Between she and my Grandad, everything has always been done to ensure that me, my sister, my Mum and my Dad have the best life possible. They have always helped us at times of need, and some of the best memories of my life are of our family trips to Florida- which was only made possible by them. She welcomed Iain and Charlotte into the family with loving arms and has acted as wonderful a grandmother to them as she has to me and Hana.
She was incredibly loyal and, my whole life, she has always had time to listen. Grandma was there whenever I needed her emotionally which, particularly as a teenager, I did a lot. Her perfectly unique and often baffling phrases never failed to help. For example, I can remember when I was 17 crying on my Grandma with my first ever broken heart and monologued on at her with how dreadful I was feeling for what must have been 10 minutes, while my Grandma cuddled me, patted my back, and listened. Finally, she came out with her simple conclusion on the matter:
“Oooh, she’s a bitch! Of the first water!”
I immediately stopped crying.
I loved my Grandma’s cooking, as many did. When I was in college, I would get the bus every Thursday to my Grandparent’s house for dinner- which was usually one of roast chicken, steak or duck in orange, which she did exquisitely well. She also loved helping my Mum in the kitchen any chance she got and took pride in which ever Sunday Roast task she was given. She taught me a great deal in the kitchen, from how to stop an apple going brown, to how to make her coveted Christmas Pudding and, of course, that delicious cream. I always enjoyed hearing her talk about her Auntie while we cooked, which she did with such affection after learning many of these cooking techniques from her, first. I think my Grandma knew from that relationship, that you can live forever in your recipes.
She knew what she liked, and she knew what she didn’t! She was quite famous in our family for being able to polish off a full rack of ribs without a pause nor with a scrap of meat left on the bone. And yet, after hearing of the holiday my sister and brother-in-law had together, declared if she ever went to Vietnam she would probably starve!
That said, she couldn’t be predicted! I remember once cheekily challenging my family to eat a dried scorpion on a stick after I had “generously” brought enough back for everyone from Thailand. The room hesitated, of course, while to our shock Grandma dived straight in and shoved it in her mouth, chomping down hard and grinning proudly! I don’t think I’ve ever been so impressed and could not stop laughing! You can see how much she enjoyed it from this picture.
I said before my Grandma was always very supportive. One of the many phases of mine which my Grandma was particularly proud and supportive of was the poetry writing phase. Therefore, I have written a poem for her, which I’d like to share with you now.
I always knew this day would come –
I’m not that naive.
But now that it’s arrived
It’s still hard to believe.
She has always been my shelter,
She has always been my friend,
She has always been my ally,
She has always helped me mend.
Now all we have are memories,
Now all we have are things,
And it’s so hard to imagine
What life without her now will bring.
We’ll use the strength she taught us,
We’ll walk with heads held high.
And just the way she showed us,
We won’t let life pass us by.
We’ll use the love she gave us,
To fill the empty space she’ll leave.
We’ll remain with joy and laughter
Of her memory, while we grieve.
I speak to you directly now,
Even though you’d say “that’s daft!
Life is for the living,
And when you’ve passed, you’ve passed!”
I want to say, there’s just no way
To say goodbye to you,
Because I am always with you
And you are always with me, too.
Today, we celebrate the life of my Grandma. And we all mourn the loss of a very dear friend.
My Grandma has loved ones all over the globe. Wherever you are in the world reading, please do enjoy those happy memories, and raise a glass to
Rowena: A Life Well Lived.