Earlier this month I was hit with the devastating loss of my grandmother. She had battled illness for many years and in the final months of her life her altzheimer's had become so severe that in truth I lost her a long time ago. Unfortunatley it was impossible for me to attend her funeral but I wrote the following words to be read out in my absence. She was a great lady.
I am sorry I can’t be with you all today but I wanted to send a few words to tell you about my grandma.
My grandma was a famously practical woman although she was always glamorous to me with long painted nails and her hair curled just so and a wardrobe full of colours that smelled of exotic perfumes. Stood on a kitchen chair by her side with one of her aprons tied several round my waist to keep it off the floor I learnt how to scramble eggs, polish silver and make the tastiest chocolate rice crispie cakes. These and many other little things will stay with me but her greatest gift to me were her stories.
I would sit by her chair, plying her with cups of tea while she told me stories of her travels around the world and of her childhood. I would love picking out an object from the many shelves and ledges around the house and ask where it had come from and she would always be able to bring to life the marketplace in some foreign land where she and my grandfather had stumbled upon the piece. Her stories were filled with funny character sketches of the people they met and wondrous descriptions of the interiors of foreign palaces and the sounds and smells of beautiful beaches. She had a story for every continent and her vivid tales and the faded postcards in the kitchen of their house gave me ideas for many make-believe adventures as a child.
My favourite stories however were the ones of our own family. Her stories introduced me to my great grandparents and family members I would never know, gave me glimpses into the lives of my mother and auntie growing up and I really enjoyed hearing tales of the scrapes she herself got into as a child during the war. At the age of eleven I remember very seriously interviewing grandma about her experiences as an evacuee, carefully writing it all down and swelling with pride as I handed it to my teacher, priviledged to have a real life account from someone who had seen history happen.
I may never be able to conjour the fabulous embroideries she created, heaven knows she tried on numerous occasions to teach me how but my tangled efforts and bleeding fingers defeated her in the end. I do however seem to have inherited her talent for story telling and now I tell stories every day in my work to inspire people to action and to try and make a difference in this world.
Now my grandma is gone an ever bigger challenge falls to me and to all of us to keep sharing these stories and paint her picture to pass on to my children. I know you all have stories you can share so as fellow guardians of our family history please help me keep these stories alive.