Last night the world lost another strong woman… intelligent, determined, hard-working, independent, inspiring… RIP Grandma June.
People often tell me I’m a strong woman, and I do my best to raise my daughter to be a strong woman also. Both of my children, to be strong in character, strong in knowledge, strong in health and strong in independence. I frequently post affirmations and quotes on the same as a simple reminder to myself of how important this is to me. But how did I get here? How did I find my strength? …
From the strong people in my life, the people who taught me to stand on my own two feet, who taught me that education and knowledge bring power and choice, and who taught me to believe in myself and to see my own strength. One of these mentors of strength was my Grandma June (GJ).
She was a tough, independent woman, she had to be… and she was smart. Not just book smart, she had a personality to go with it. Making her extremely intelligent and witty. To her, knowledge was so important. As knowledge gave you the power to do or be whoever or whatever you wanted. She instilled this in me from a very young age. I still remember opening the parcel of books she would send every year for birthday’s and Christmas. Australian classics that, although maybe I didn’t read them all (sorry Grandma, I’m just not a big book reader) I am glad to have been able to pass on to my children, still with the hand written messages of love and best wishes inside the front cover.
As I grew up, we maintained a close relationship despite living in different states and rarely seeing each other. We would write letters every few months, and she would send me stamps so we could keep the correspondence going. I loved receiving her letters. They were written in cards with artwork on the front cover, telling me about my Dad, Uncle and cousins, about her gardening and home improvements, and always imparting some words of pride in my academic achievements and inspiration on where these would take me. I would write to her about my life at boarding school, about university and boyfriends and breakups, to which she would reply that ‘sometimes things happen for the best…keep smiling…the world is your Oyster” … “The world is your Oyster”… She would often say this to me and these words influenced my attitude to focus on living my life, rather than just creating it… So when I travelled around the world in 2005 I was so excited to send a trail of postcards addressed to “Grandma June” telling her of my adventures from all the beautiful places I visited. The years passed and we both grew. I got married and started a family, and GJ grew older. Sadly, our letters began to drop off until eventually, the letters stopped, making the handful of handwritten cards I have held onto over the years even more precious.
My Grandma was fierce. I remember sitting with her in the lounge, listening to talkback radio and her giving John Laws a good mouthful with the occasional turn to me “isn’t that right Zo?” for reassurance. She was opinionated and fiery and her opinion was always heard. I remember my Dad telling me that him and my Uncle Andrew used to joke that they knew when she was arguing with the other as she’d call the one she was arguing with last week and act like nothing had happened.
When the dementia began to cloud her thoughts her sheer determination and fervent independence did not falter, no matter how frustrating it was for the rest of us. That was just Grandma. We all knew it, and as much as she drove us all nuts, her passion and unwavering opinons were what made her the strong woman she was. John Laws better watch himself when he eventually finds himself at the Pearly Gates as I’m quite sure GJ will have a right grilling prepared before they let him in in…
It is sad to see that the life of my amazing, intelligent, strong Grandma ended with a few meagre possessions, some great books (of course), no friends, and only a handful of family to remember her. But life is not about death, it is about living. It is about the memories and crazy stories my Mum and Aunty Cath can tell us all that make us laugh. It is about the strength, confidence and independence that she instilled in my cousins and I and that I will instil in my children.
And during this saddest time and time of reflection I find some strange sense of peace and comfort. Peace and comfort in knowing that you, my beautiful strong Grandma June, no longer have to live with the sadness you have endured for the past 15 years. The sadness that even you with your strength couldn’t overcome as you had to bury your children, the sons you gave birth to, raised, and saw grow into men with children of their own… not once, but twice. I find peace and comfort in the thought that maybe there really is a heaven, and that now you can once again hold your sons in your arms.
Thank you, and Rest In Peace my Grandma June. xx