Sunday morning I got the phone call I had been dreading. I knew it was coming sooner than later but when I saw my home phone number show up on my tiny Nokia phone, my stomach dropped. My precious daddy, keeping it together for me, sweetly told me my grandmother had passed away.
If you know me well, you know that my granny and I didn't have an ordinary relationship. She was more than my grandmother, she was one of my best friends. Naturally, I am completely heartbroken after losing my 'bosom buddy', as my granny used to say about her closest friends.
We never lived near my granny so when we got the chance to go visit, we were elated. Our parents used to drop us off at their house (my grandfather was there when we were younger as well but it was granny who did most things with us), and spoil us completely rotten for a few days. She would take us to the Castle Fun Park and give us $20 to buy tokens for all the games. We would collect tickets upon tickets and granny would take them home, organize them, and save them for us so we could 'cash' them in for a big prize. She would take us to the movie store and tell us we could rent as many movies as we wanted. We would get home and sink into the couch for hours with our eyes glued to the TV. Sometimes she would even come along and scratch our backs lightly with her long, delicate fingers. She always made me a cup of tea, the british way, and adorned a saucer with chocolate covered digestive cookies. Her tea was the best I have ever tasted. Grandma never failed to send us a card for every occasion. She would rarely spend more than $1 on a card but always made sure it gets to us. The last one I received from her was an engagement card that she sent all the way to Mombasa.
She was such an elegant woman. She made everything look elegant. She had beautiful broaches, berets of all colours, beautiful necklaces, and classy outfits. I think it was largely due to her upbringing in the 'Old Country', Wales. Because of this upbringing, she had the greatest vocabulary. I wonder how many grandmothers told their kids to go upstairs and do their "ablutions" before they went to bed. Or used the phrase 'three sheets to the wind' to say that someone was drunk. I wish she had written down all the crazy idioms she used to come up with. We loved her for that. And even after living in Canada for most of her life, she still pronounced 'water' as 'wauter'.
We grew closer as I got older. I used to fight with my dad over who was going to call grandma that day. I loved talking with her. We even knit a whole blanket together one summer. It still sits on my bed. She gave me her car which my brother now drives. She was always there to say goodbye to me when I left for Africa. I always thought it would be the last time I saw her. However, she was always the first face I saw as I stepped off the plane back in Canada. And, of course, countless afternoons drinking tea and eating chocolate digestive cookies.
When I came home from Kenya in 2007, my dad broke the news to me that she was diagnosed with cancer. This broke my heart. The cancer she had was not curable but was treatable. They gave her a couple years to live if she was willing to endure the horrors of chemo. Which she did. I was in Vancouver when she went through her first bout of chemo. It was nerve wracking but she handled it well. Slowly she started shedding her hair and she would complain that her finger tips and her nose would go numb (which also happened when she drank too much). She survived that chemo and the cancer went away from a while. Then it came back and she did the chemo again. It went away and came back. Went away and came. I lost count how many times she did chemo. We thought she would never die. We used to tease her and say she would outlive all of us. Her strength and positive spirit always amazed us. We knew she was suffering. She missed my grandfather every second of her life. It's no fun being sick and alone. But she never wanted to be a burden to anyone and her focus was always our well being even to the very end.
The day before I left to get on the plane back to Mombasa, I spent one last day with her. I think we both knew it would be the last time we saw each. We talked a lot about Jesus and what was waiting for us in heaven (I am still not sure if she made it there). We cried a lot. We watched the Justin Bieber movie together and she even gave me a little dance move or two. We giggled. She told me a few dirty jokes and cackled at herself. She made me a cup of tea and opened up a package of chocolate covered digestive cookies. We talked and prayed. She told me about her younger years and all the things she had overcome. Finally I gave her one last hug goodbye then she pushed me out the door not wanting to turn into a blubbering mess.
Finally the chemo stopped working and the cancer was taking over. Grandma was also tired and not willing to fight any more. She didn't want to be a burden to us anymore. So she went into hospice and slept peacefully until she finally stopped breathing on November 18th.
I miss her already. I wish I could pick up my phone and hear her voice again. So keep us in our prayers. It has been a tough year with losing two grandparents but we are making it through. I am excited that my family will be with me in Mombasa in the next couple weeks where we can celebrate my wedding but also remember my grandma.