I have had some amazing leaders and teachers in my life. One I dearly miss whose birthday would have been the 1st of Jan, is my Nana, my Dads mum.
It was in her memory and honour I decided to list this competition and the stories and messages shared there had me overwhelmed about just how to honour that, and you, and her and her memory.
She was born on 1st January 1933 and died just a few years ago at 81 on the 6th of Jan, 2014.
I remember calling her for her birthday, that last one she had and when I got off the phone, I just burst into tears.
“Is she ok?” James asked.
“She said so, but she always says so. But it didn’t sound like her. It didn’t sound like Nana.” I cried into his arms.
We were staying at my Mums house and she and James sat me down with a glass of wine over lunch and talked me through it. “She’s old Jess, she’s been unwell. I know you are close to her but you need to prepare yourself for the inevitable…”
I mean Nan had been ‘preparing’ herself for years. Every visit back she had sold or given away yet another piece of furniture or something and downgraded it. She told me, my sister and my cousin it was so we wouldn’t have to worry about getting rid of it later.
My Nana was an amazing lady. She was so well loved and admired. She put up with shit most of us would never dream off. And even with us kids even at our most trying, the worst she would say is “go fly a kite”. It was her version of “I am so fucking frustrated right now and want to scream at you but instead I am going to breathe deeply and tell you to go away nicely”.
My Nana’s 60th birthday on New Years Day in Canberra, (from L-R) Kate (my sister), Dad, Mum, Me & Nana – Kate & I were so hung over we missed the first flight to the party haha
I haven’t yet mastered that one but she told me once, “I think we make better grandparents than we do even as parents in life” so I am holding out hope for myself yet!
She and my grandfather were a formidable pair who did so much for the communities around them by working together (much like my own parents and the World of Difference award but that’s a separate story in itself, I did put a video link here though if you are keen to see below which mum downplays her role in for the record). But it is my grandparents I have been thinking about lately…
When Nana died we all went down to clear her house and prepare for the funeral and such (a process I know too well as apparently I just know a lot of people who have died) and found a few small folders of my grandfather’s stories she had kept. Actually I knew exactly where she kept it as I had regularly made her pull it out on all my visits.
It wasn’t’ stories he had written himself but a collection of varied stories from all over the world, different religious texts and some colloquial ones or stories of different cultures. He was a story teller my grandfather, but I knew him as a Unity Church minister and my Nana as a nurse and heavily involved with many different charities and organisations, one of them including the Unity Church.
When I asked my Aunty Sue for more details, well the list of just how many groups my Nana was involved with right up until her death speaks for itself really. But she started he life working on her Dads farm and it was when she started her nursing training that she meet my grandfather. She really wanted her Dad to walk her down the aisle (who doesn’t, my sister and I missed out on that one too) but he was very ill and it did look like he would last till she finished her training for when they had planned their wedding.
Her and my grandfather moved their wedding forward by eight months or so (my Nana’s dad actually died just six weeks later) and so she had to drop out of college as that’s how things worked at the time. My grandfather was still finishing his theology studies and was also told he couldn’t get married while studying as well. His dean of college said it would be too distracting to be married (meaning because they could have sex and wouldn’t be living in sin and all that) and my Pa told him it was far more distracting waiting.
So they married, I think in March of 1958 and it was my grandfather who took charge of setting up the reception venue because my grandmother had to help her dad finish the sheep dipping before the wedding.
After they got married they became missionaries in a small New South Wales town called Hay, where my Dad was born. It was a role called “Inland Missionaries”, they were waiting for my grandfather’s registration as a Minister for the NSW Methodist church. He was refused and so they set off to South Australia where he better fit the entry requirements.
As soon as he was qualified in SA and was assigned his first post, my Nana always ran the women’s fellowship meetings and supported my grandfather in his support role for the local community as well as focusing on raising my Dad, his sister and their brother (thanks again to my dad’s little sister, my Aunty Sue for filling in some gaps here and digging up some photos for me).
My Dad as a baby in 1959
All of my elders have been progressive and ahead of their times, my Nana was the committee secretary for a group recognising gay rights in the church (this was a long time ago-it had a name that had something about justice?). She was also a strong supporter of groups helping refugees settling in Australia. She ALWAYS donated to world vision. Her and my grandfather and another couple they were close friends with set up Lifeline in Broken Hill.
In her later years she volunteered with a different kind of call centre support which called people who lived alone or were elderly or otherwise at risk and just made sure they were ok. She was always involved with services like Meals on Wheels, in fact I can remember doing a few support runs with my mum and grandmother for that cause as a young kid myself. She worked with and supported the Kidney foundation and Motor Neuron Disease Association visiting, talking and supporting people.
I spent time with them when they where living in Taiwan working for big companies like DuPount as a developer or coach in the area of social/cultural models. This is all stuff I am only just beginning to learn about now! I had no idea what they were up to in Taiwan..
Which is funny cause I spent like a two months living with them there at the time while my parents traveled Asia, but I guess I wasn’t paying attention to that kind of thing and its was like the late 80’s so… this was me at the time…
When her and my grandfather were posted in Stirling they worked hard together to support bush fire relief efforts. They even bought a few caravans to help rehome people – but they didn’t make it common knowledge, it wasn’t something done for praise or recognition. My Aunty Sue shared a gem that Nan had told her when she asked why they didn’t tell anyone, my Nana said, “That isn’t the point. The doing is for someone else, the telling is for you-you need to work our why you are doing your good deed, for you or for others”.
She was also a nurse despite never formally finishing her training (rules were different back then!) and she also took five years off her age for her whole professional career! She was a matron of a nursing home and worked in aged care, even just supporting and nursing those in the wee retirement village established to support life members of the church like her, right up until her death.
I was always very close with my Nana, even when I was a young girl. I have many, many fond memories but in a bitter sweet tragic way – we got to share something more than a lot of people I know may have had a chance to do with their grandparents.
In 2010, my dad died. Her son.
She had not only buried two husbands but now she was having to do the same for her son.
Nana and Dad in 2002
This, like lots of us, totally took her by surprise and left her heartbroken. I remember in her grief her saying to me, “sure you might have to bury husbands and friends, that’s hard but that’s life, but it’s not fair to bury your child.”
It was near the end of 2011 and I had been throwing myself into work, almost trying to escape the loss of my dad. At least desperately trying to search like a mad man for the “silver lining”.
I was copying (well kind of) with my Dad not being around but I wasn’t ‘dealing’ with it. I wasn’t processing my loss. I was feeling lost and made myself sick in such a state and got to the point where I was like, “I just want to go to Nana’s!”
And so I did. As a 26 year old. I just went and stayed at my Nans for over a month. We tried to heal together. We relived things, she told me stories about Dad and Pa. She took me on road trips to places they had lived and worked before. I learned so much from her in that time.
We bonded so much in that time. There is something to be said about the intensity of a shared experience that isn’t comfortable or “normal” that brings a deeper closeness to that relationship.
Anyway as I have mentioned before, anniversaries and rituals are something we have really thought about and discussed for our family as we are aware it will shape our children’s understanding and experiences of these things, as well as our own.
And unfortunately for me, I have quite a list of loved ones that did/do (I’m never sure of the appropriate tense in these settings) but they mean the world to me, just like my kids do and while I was lucky to introduce Josh, my eldest son, to my Nana once before she passed, she will just like my Dad and grandfather, only ever be a story or character to my kids, not someone they will have the chance to know in the current physical realm.
So when it comes to anniversaries for my grandfather, I share some of his stories by reading them aloud, in his eccentric, largely exaggerated gesture style to the boys and James, geez anyone who will listen, or just aloud to myself. It’s not too hard to get an audience though, many of his stories where very kid friendly, we as his grandchildren has the same ones read to us by him at the age my kids are now…
Like this, The Little Dog… (don’t laugh at my poor attempt at telling this, my grandfather was much better at it than me! My Aunty assures me its because I haven’t added the characters to it right yet :P) – listen here at you’re own peril hahaha – https://soundcloud.com/user-520072466/sets/stories
For my Dad, I know he would want us to share the element of fun and adventure, remember him but not dwell on the loss of him. So we make paper boats and send them out to sea in various water ways while we talk about all the cool and crazy adventures I had with him as a kid and what he would have loved to experience with the boys now.
I want to try and maintain a positive aspect to loss, not just for myself but my kids. The stories are the only way they will know their ancestors.
But when it comes to my Nana, well I don’t know I really had a “her way” to celebrate and remember her for those ‘hard dates’ and I wanted to think of something that captured her spirit and essence and what she would want me to establish as the way we remember her.
And of course, it had to be something about helping others. When my Aunty Sue said “Mums big thing was always to look out for others and to relieve their pain/suffering or hard work” well that really summed it up for me.
But I’ve been struggling to “draw a winner” for this New Year’s Giveaway in her honour and now I know it’s because that style, of like “announcing one” just wouldn’t be her thing.
She would want me to help as many people as I could but she would also not want to make a fuss about it. “Consider why you’re doing the good deed”…
So also because I have fractured several ribs and am on some seriously kick arse pain meds so my brain is fuzzy – I’m going to take my time getting in touch with “winners”. And I am going to do it via PM, so there won’t be an “announcement” here and my contact might not even be immediate…
And I know there are at least one or two other awesome people and brand that want to help me make some new years wishes come true so I will keep you posted and make sure I give a big ups and shout out to them, but yep, this was is being drawn in different styles for a change 😛 so if there are more awesome people who want to help me out, keep the PM’s coming 😉
In an ideal world I would hope to talk to all of those people nominated and who posted there as I was very moved and touched by your stories. But even if I can’t get to you all, I hope you do realise you already brought a wee bit of a positive boost to the start of 2017 for both you and the person you nominated (if applicable) because you acknowledged the hard shit from 2016 and validates the struggle then put it out to the universe that you hoped 2017 would be more positive.
So I hope it is, for all of us!
Happy New Year,