Regardless of the underlying tones of despair and distress and the reason for these gatherings, the company of others proved to be agreeable and comforting in a funny and unexpected kind of way. This was mainly due to the fact that these gatherings turned into celebrations of my grandmother’s life. There were the old, old stories of her childhood, her life, her family and friends, which were all repeated over and over again with witty anecdotes in regards to her character and personality. The majority of those who had gathered had known my grandmother from the old days, you see.
I do remember feeling ‘cheated’ because I had narrowly missed the opportunity of a lifetime in not being able to meet her in the flesh. As was also the case with my beloved grandmother, I had always felt that we had indeed met. I had always felt that I had known her as intimately as I had known my own parents and siblings.
I had envisaged for so long that we would meet and that she would wrap her ancient arms around me as we embraced. I had imagined how we would cry and rejoice together. For years I had dreamt how we would sit peacefully side by side and just enjoy one another’s company as we lovingly studied each line and contour and blemish on each other’s faces. In my darkest hours, I had always imagined how she would then gently cup her gnarled and arthritic fingers either side of my face and tell me directly how much she loved me. I had longed to sit with her on the veranda so I could tell her how much I admired and loved her and more importantly to thank her for all of her beautiful and loving letters throughout the years.
During those times of my distressing isolations governed by fear and suppressed anger, I had dreamt of her asking me to plait her grey and soft hair and in my imaginations I would gladly stand behind her chair as I gently twisted her hair from the front to the back.
All I had ever prayed for was the opportunity to just sit beside her and be in her presence to soak up her love and her resounding energy for life.
Instead, destiny had dictated that this one particular telephone call was to alter my life for many years to come.
The day of the funeral and all that it entailed loomed before us and seemed more real and ominous now that we had seen our beloved grandmother lying ‘in state’ – I lovingly and respectfully use the word ‘state’, because to us, grandmother was and always would be our Empress, our Queen and our beloved Elder.