Well, it’s all over. Grandma was cremated this afternoon. Today was really, really hard and it has now hit me that I will never see her again. Walking into the funeral home for her final service, and seeing the coffin, was just a little too much, and the last 2 months hit me like a ton of bricks. I wasn’t able to read out the eulogy, but here it is.
Grandma was born in 1931, in Catholic Ireland, to a single mother. She had 2 older brothers and a little sister, Josephine, who died when Grandma was 7. Her mother died around the same time, and grandma grew up in a convent. She never really spoke much about her childhood, and the memories she did share with me were always positive. They almost always involved her getting in trouble for being cheeky, or being chased by a nun.
Grandma never really dwelled on the loss of her mother. Her father was not interested either, and, knowing her like I do, even though she never really said much, I could tell it affected her view of the world.
To come up here and say she was a saint wouldn’t only be a lie, it would be an insult to her legacy. Because Grandma was a survivor. She didn’t always get it right and quite often got the wrong end of the stick, but her heart was good.
All she ever wanted was respect. Respect from the people who brought her into this world, respect from the family she worked so hard to maintain. She needed to know that nothing she did, all the hard work, all the late hours, all the cooked meals, all the cups of tea, and all the arguments were not in vain.
Although Grandma would not self-identify as a feminist, and in fact would go so far as to strongly deny it — there are so many ways that her influence alone informs how I see the world. Forced to go it alone, and never dependent on a man or any other person, we had a kinship and an understanding that, sometimes, we are forced to make our own luck. She never, ever let her beginnings or her disappointments affect her life, and even though the end of her life is a quiet one… That’s all she ever wanted. To be cared for, to be allowed to be vulnerable and yet still retain her dignity.
Which of course is ironic, because whenever I needed rescuing — there she was. She cleaned hotel rooms to help my dad keep me in school uniforms. She cooked me meals, she helped me to get my first flat. She wasn’t always the softest place to land, but given the circumstances, I understand why now. It was about keeping it together, and I often wonder what was going on in her head… And how she was when we weren’t around to see.
Because, with the suddenness of the cancer that killed her, I saw a different side to her. She didn’t fight it, and part of me thinks she knew for some time. But I knew her, and I like to think that I knew her better than anyone else and that she shared a special, softer side with me.
She was and always will be the main female influence in my life. I hope that the fighting spirit, the work ethic, and the strong sense of what is right, on some level, lives on in us all. And although this gathering is humble, she can rest knowing that she lives on, having lived a life with courage, conviction and dignity.
On a personal level, I hope that the last 2 months of her life spent with me and Jason, needing a lot of help, were as easy as they could have been. We’ll never stop missing her and I hope she’s proud of us.