Thursday, 8 January 2015

Nana 1915 - 2015

Last Saturday our Nana died. Her end was peaceful and quite quick, though to her it seemed to take a long time. For the last few weeks she was asking us how long it would be that she had to lie there. Thankfully it was only 5 weeks, and most of the rest of her 99 1/2 years were in good health.

I am writing this post for BB really. He had some very special moments with Nana, many of which he may not remember, but doubtlessly they will have shaped his life a little. She lost her husband a year before BB was born, so when he came along he was the light of her life. She came alive when BB went to visit. Her aches and pains went away as she played with him. She thought he was remarkable, advanced for his age, handsome, generous, and well behaved. She was remarkably relaxed about what he could do in her house. We rarely took toys, instead BB would empty out her saucepan cupboard or play with her ornamental tea set and the cowbell. She always had some chocolate raisins for him

She was quite an incredible woman, she lived in her own home until just 2 months before her death. She was my maternal grandmother, and a great support to me as a mum, mostly because when she had a baby she parented similarly to me. She thought it most bizarre when I was told that I should be timing the feeds, and she never asked me if BB slept through the night yet until he was 3. She was my little connection with life before the nonsense of parenting manuals. 

My Nana was very important to me as a child too. It was the relationship that I had with her that made me want to move back to the UK when I had a child, because that relationship was so precious and I wanted my child to have the opportunity to have that relationship with my mum.

These photos are from when BB and Nana first met. He was 2 days old, and it was her 96th birthday


BB grew quickly and was quite a heavy weight by the time he was 4 months old. Nana was starting to find things like a can of fruit heavy, yet she always wanted to hold BB, and never found him too heavy at all.



This was when BB was about 15 months old - my birthday

Christmas 2013
Nana stayed in her own home until she had no choice but to leave. She had very limited mobility and was almost blind. She could no longer look after herself. She also had cancer which was spreading from her ovary to her liver kidney, bladder and lungs. we moved her into a nursing home at the start of November. At first she did well. They provided her with a healthy balanced meal three times a day which she had not really had for a while, she gained a bit of weight. She continued to be playful with BB 
Playing peek-a-boo in Nana's bed shortly after she moved into a nursing home

Then she started to feel ill. She became very nauseous and went off her food, hardly eating for a week. We wondered if it might be because she was taking her medication (in the nursing home someone would give it to her and watch her take it - at home she would have left half of it in the packet!)

Then on the last Saturday of November BB and I went to visit her. I had seen her a couple of days before and she wasn't good, so I wasn't expecting us to stay long. When we arrived she was asleep in her chair, her breakfast, a modest dish of tinned fruit still sat in front of her. She brightened up so much on seeing BB and ate her breakfast. We played the shopping game, with BB helping Nana as she couldn't see, then her lunch came. It was a reasonable serving of liver and onions and mashed potato, followed by dessert. She ate it all. Then my Mum arrived and Nana was raring to go. Santa was visiting the home that day, she wanted to take BB. Then she wanted to go outside for a ride with BB on her knee (they have both loved doing that since BB was tiny). She was so energetic and in such great spirits we really thought she was better.



We couldn't visit for a few days after that as they had a visitor ban in the home due to a norovirus outbreak. Nana didn't get it though. We rang up regularly and the skeleton staff informed us that she was clear of the bug, but by the following weekend they decided that we could come and see her at our own risk, even though they weren't officially open. She was in bed looking very old and ill. We were dripping water into her mouth through a straw. We really thought it would be just days.

It was a shock to see her like that when we thought she was getting better. Having read up on it since, it is quite a common occurrence for people who are dying to eat after days of not eating and get the energy for one last hoorah. That must have been what she was up to on the day we saw santa. As far as we know she ate nothing but a few spoonfuls of ice-cream since.

Her speech was limited in the last few weeks, but she managed to thank everyone that had helped her, to talk about how grateful she was for all my Mum and her neighbours and friends had done for her. She did say to me one day that she wanted to be gone before Father Christmas came. I think for our sakes as much as hers, she didn't want to spoil our Christmas. In a way though her timing was good. Both my sisters were able to come home for Christmas and spend time with her. She was also in a lot of pain and very fed up with it toward the end. 

She slept an increasing amount of the time. A few things that I wanted to note for BB was that when we were there one time and she was mostly sleeping she said "choo choo" with him. Another day BB were sitting next to her bed bed and he said "I love you" to me, I said "I love you too" and then he continued a game that we often play by saying "I love you three" I replied "I love you four" and so it continued - we got to eight then suddenly Nana broke her silence and said "I love you ten!" That's a moment I will never ever forget.

She always tried to communicate with BB,  on her penultimate day, she even managed to make a little teeny tiny sound in response to his hello. He was so lovely with her too, giving her gentle strokes and pats and kisses, he called her "Lovely Sweet Nana" which indeed she was. He was so well behaved at the nursing home, if he got bored he would just go for a walk to fetch some cold water and talk to the other residents. Many of them loved him too.

Christmas day 2014 - BB is trying some magic to make Nana better - she is sleeping

I think BB is OK about her death. After all his questions about dying I think this has been a good introduction to it. Slow and steady, and with someone old and sick, who very gradually left her life. He was upset a couple of days before she died, but he said that he was scared that I would die with her. When we found out she had died he said "It's ok, I'm not sad" when my parents were here, but as soon as they left he climbed on my knee and said "I am sad really". I was recommended a children's book The Day the Sea Went Out and Never Came Back which I wasn't sure about when we first got it, but the more we read it the more we like it. We started reading it before she died, using it as a way to talk about what it would be like when she went. It has opened up some conversations about how we wont see Nana again, but we will always have the memories of her in our hearts.

We love you one hundred Nana.

Always