That nothing lasts forever is an unavoidable reality. Growing up with my grandparents, enjoying my Nan’s cooking – Sunday roasts, apple pies, sponge pudding – watching films and reading books with my Grandad, listening to their endless words of wisdom and passing idyllic childhood days in the country park fishing and walking along the cliffs, I never could have imagined that that would one day be lost forever. People who are with you from birth are part of the fundamental landscape of your life and a world without them is unthinkable. And yet since their passing, I have felt no lessening in the strength of their presence; I can still imagine their voices, see their smiles, remember their facial expressions and mannerisms. I can anticipate their reactions or advice for any problems I may have. This has led me to the conclusion that there are two facets to our relationships with people: their immediate physical presence, and a greater intangible presence, which lingers long after they are gone. When someone touches your life and offers something real and unwavering in a world of temporary friends and endless acquaintances, it changes who you are. That person becomes part of who you are and will stay with you forever.
When I heard that my Grandad was in the operating theatre to have surgery on a broken hip bone, it was a bolt out of the blue. When he later struggled with his rehabilitation, we doggedly insisted that he would be ok once he was home. But the twist of fate that led to his fall pulled him down a one way road and there was no turning back. Every day of our lives we play games of sliding doors; we make turnings, running into chance or brick walls. Every day of our lives we spar with fate and I look back to key encounters in my life and imagine where I would be had I dodged them by a fraction of a second. I will never know if my Grandad would still be with us had he not fallen that day. My Nan was soon to be struck down by illness and I can’t help but wonder if it was part of the Masterplan. Either way, a thousand days of nothing are sometimes just a countdown to that one day where our lives will turn 180 in a matter of minutes.
Two weeks after my Grandad entered hospital my Nan went to visit – as she did every day for four months – with their 60th wedding anniversary card: he didn’t know the day. When he died my Nan wrote to him of their “golden years”. I’ve never known a couple so steadfast. They weren’t overly affectionate but through the years they demonstrated the real meaning of love: taking the good with the bad, supporting each other through thick and thin, being comfortable in each other’s presence. When my Grandad passed away in December my Nan had plans to move on and live on elsewhere but just four months later she was gone too. Devoted couples passing within weeks or months of one another is far from rare. The University of Glasgow published a study on the subject in 2007 and found that for many, losing a beloved spouse represents losing a connection to this world – I sometimes wonder whether my Grandad’s last months triggered this reaction in my Nan but this is one question that will remain unanswered.
But despite all of the uncertainties and existential questions that arise from bereavement, one thing that I remain sure of is that comfort is there in the knowledge of enduring love.