Almost exactly six months ago, I lost my friend. I know it was six months as it was pointed out to me by her husband the other day. A few moments later he told me the rest of his news. He was going to be a grandfather( I know he will be a great one). I found the moment extremely poignant but joyfully gave him a hug. My friend, Maree would have been the best grandmother in the world. How do I know that?-because she was an honorary grandmother to our two youngsters. She was always there for them. She could always be trusted. She was warm, understanding and kind. When my son was a lively two year old, she was really the only person whom I trusted to take care of him. She had never been dismissive, she knew his foibles and had realised he would keep her on her toes (unlike others who acted like they had seen it all before and had then ended up regretting it!)
She was particularly close to my daughter. My daughter had loved listening to her. Maree would join in with all our fun and games. When she had found us doing Karaoke and band practice on the Play Station, she had joined in enthusiastically. I don’t know how she did it but she invariably won most games she played with us. She was simply good at just about everything to which she had turned her hand.
I had only known her a short time when I first watched her head towards the house with her craft materials in tow. Her first target was me. She had announced simply,
” I am going to teach you how to make cards”.
As with everything else she did, she was meticulous. I was taught by the best. To this day I still make virtually all my own cards. In those days most of the people I came across, treated me solely like a Mother (a role I very much enjoyed) but Maree had also always treated me like a person.
The children would see her head towards the house and would immediately start crying out in delight, “Ree,Ree!” (short for Maree). We all loved her. Our house was (and still is) always full of her presence, the cards she made, little trinkets and clothes she passed on. In those early days of raising my young man, she was always there with words of reassurance. She never told me how to raise our children, she just gave me the confidence to raise them the way I wanted to. All the crazy stuff we did, like our Friday night discos, (one or other of us would often end up dancing on the coffee table), would never make her raise an eyebrow. I am a heavy metal fan and she would slip in and often join in with gusto. She played the drum kit, the electric guitar and any other of the play station accessories to hand. I know somewhere on the Play station we have recordings of her singing and when we are ready perhaps we will feel able to listen,
My favourite Maree anecdote, described her reaction to having watched Mary Poppins as a child. She must have been very little at the time. Nonetheless she had managed to find herself an umbrella and then to everybody’s horror, she had jumped off the garage roof. Unfortunately for Maree she had not managed to fly but fortunately she appeared to have only winded herself and destroyed an umbrella, This had earned her. I believe, the lifelong nickname of “Mary Poppins” within her family.
My daughter was learning the keyboard. When she had learned something, she had passed on her knowledge to Maree. We have a button on our keyboard which plays auto melodies. We were all disturbed in the middle of the night (shortly after her death), when the keyboard started playing mysteriously on its own. It had never done this before and it has never done so since. I like to think that Maree had found a way of saying, “Hi!”
She would bring us her wonderful baked treats and we would attempt to reciprocate. I would send the children over with our little offerings. I knew it was likely Maree was terminally ill . I had listened to somebody in a Ted Talk, who had described how patients in a hospice, loved home-baked goods. So we had continued to make her cakes almost right up to the end. It was a way my teenage daughter could give back to her dear friend, who had given her so much. I made it my goal that we cook cakes for her at least once a week. I think it was hard for my daughter to see Maree so ill but the cakes helped overcome this. She would head off to drop off cakes and then be gone for what had seemed like hours; whilst the two of them had chatted happily. I occasionally had to ring up to ask for my daughter back.
I made sure the children visited Maree in the hospice. It was not easy for them to see Maree so sick but I think overall it had helped them to come to terms with things. For Maree’s last birthday we had bought her a star, as she had been such a bright star in our lives. On the day before she died my daughter and I had wandered down to the hospice to give it to her. It was meant not only as a gift to her but also as a gift to my children and to her future descendants. They may not ever know her but they will always be able to look at the night sky and think of her out there.
To Maree’s future grandchildren
I never knew one of my grandmothers. I always wondered about her. I want you to know about your grandmother. She would have been the best grandmother you could have ever wished for. She would have snuggled up with you, secretly fed you full of chocolate and baked goods. She would have joined in all your games and likely won. She would have watched everything you wanted to watch, from Teletubbies to Pokemon. She would have always been there with a kind word and a cookie. How do I know that? Because that is what she did for my two children..
I would like to thank the wonderful staff at the hospice who made her so comfortable.