I didn't know it would be this fucking hard.
I surprised myself, I really did.
I didn't know that I would feel so completely shattered when it happened, I mean of course I loved him, but he was so old, and I barely spent time with him. I wouldn't have said we were close. My sister, she's the family orientated one, she's always the one that walks our grandparents out to their cars whenever we're leaving somewhere, the one that never says no when asked to come visit.
I never did any of that. I rarely ever went to see them in the hospital. It wasn't that I didn't care, they were my family, of course I fucking cared. But I was so scared. I've never seen anyone die in hospital, so there's no rational reason for me to be afraid. I can't really explain it, but they made me feel so bloody uncomfortable. Looking back at that now, I was just being really selfish. You know what they say about hindsight.
I knew I'd be able to cope when it happened, but that was before I knew how deeply I would be affected. Yet still, I found a strength in me even stronger than I had originally anticipated.
I have three cousin's. A girl, Natalie, then her brother Liam, and then Jake was the youngest at eighteen. My sister and Jake are the same age, and are very close.
My oldest cousin didn't make it. She lives in Perth, and she booked a flight the second she got the call, but he was already gone when she got there. I have very mixed feelings about this. I feel sad for her, that she never got the chance to say goodbye. On the other hand, I was there in that little room when it happened, and part of me feels like she dodged a bullet, because that' the most painful thing I've ever witnessed, and the most painful thing I've ever been through.
The heaviness wasn't just in our hearts, it was in our very words, in the air we were all breathing.
I remember the nurses kept coming in offering us tea. Yeah, like that's going to change anything. I know they were only doing their jobs, but at a time like this, I guarantee they were the only ones thinking about bloody tea. And I remember my mum's response, it was the same one every time. She's laugh and say, "You got anything stronger?"
We'd just come home from a funeral. It was my Dad's father's sister that had passes away, so as sad as it was, we were there for moral support than to actually mourn. My uncle on my dad's side had flown down from Queensland to be there, and my dad was keen to catch up with him before he left. He was only here for the night.
Mum had mentioned that we would go and visit my grandad in the hospital in the afternoon, so the second we got home me and my sister had changed our clothes. Didn't exactly wanna go to the hospital dressed for a funeral, doesn't exactly send the best message to the patients.
Me and my sister were dressed and ready to go, and then mum's phone rang. We could tell from her end of the conversation that it was the hospital, and once she had hung up, it was obvious from her heavy tone when she said, "I'm going to hospital, who's coming?" that this was the call she'd been waiting for. We knew without it being said that we were going to say goodbye.
My dad was torn. Of course he wanted to come, but we'd just got back, and when else was he going to see his brother.
I asked mum whether she's be okay driving and she said yes. I knew it was a lie, and funnily enough when my dad offered to drive she took him up on his offer immediately. He would drop us off, come back for one drink with my uncle, and then drop him back with my nan and pa, where he would be staying the night. I felt bad for my uncle as we all rushed for the front door, leaving him behind in an empty house. And as we rushed I remembered something had had happened just two nights previous.
It was when my mother had announced to us that grandad wasn't going to be around for much longer. She had started crying at the end of this, and apologised, and my sister had started crying along with her, while my dad watched, unsure of what to do with himself. I felt much the same way. Mum and my sister were so lost in their own grief that when my dad had given them a box of tissues from another room, they offered me one.
But I hadn't been crying.
As I thought about this on the way to the hospital, I realised something. At least until my dad came back, my mum was going to be a mess. So was my sister. I was the only one capable of holding it together.
And I would like to add at this point that no one asked me to do this. I put myself in the position of comforter, and I would do it a thousand times over. It was just that their sorrow was so great, and I felt that they should have an anchor, someone to lean on that wasn't as ripped apart as they were.
I concentrated on my breathing and prepared myself.
It's hard to describe what I saw when we got to the hospital. My grandad had always been a very proud man, had always carried himself with his lead held high. And he had deteriorated so damn fast.
What I saw was a wrinkled bone thin old man that had so sense of posture whatsoever. He was sprawled underneath a thin, scratchy looking hospital blanket, and he didn't have the strength to close his mouth. It hung wide open, and even few minutes he would make this horrible gargling noise. We depended heavily on that horrific horrible sound, because when he wasn't choking on his saliva it didn't look like he was even breathing.
The nurses assured us that he wasn't in any pain, and that sound was just saliva sitting in his throat, because he didn't have the strength to swallow.
My mother flung her arms around his thin neck, and sobbed. "I love you so much," she cried. "I'll miss you so much and you were the best dad."
It was hard to watch this without becoming emotional, and I noticed my sister wiping tears from her cheeks. I sucked back my own, and went to hug her.
Mum spoke to him again. "You hold on for mum!"
Now that was a horrible thought. It would have killed me if he never got to hear his wife's voice before he died, and it would have killed her not to say goodbye. They had been married for nearly 63 amazing years, and I always looked at them as an inspiration for love when I was doubting its existence.
But my nanny was very old, and she's been in bad shape for years. In all honesty, the most brutal of truths, I never thought that grandad would be the first of them to go.
Nanny had never gotten a driver's license, because she was always with my grandad. He drove her everywhere, until he had had to surrender his license. They had both gotten too old for leaving the house, and my mum and her brother had taken over taxi duties, as well as paying the bills and doing the grocery shopping for them.
Because of this, my uncle, Warren, had to pick nanny up from her house, then come to the hospital.
I'm not going to lie; I had my doubts that they would make it in time.
My cousin, Liam, and my aunty had gotten there first. Sarah and Will were separated, had been for years, but they had started dating as teenagers. Sarah had always called my grandad 'dad', and we were all happy that she was there. I have a feeling that because of the separation, she didn't feel like she deserved to be there, and I felt bad for her. She had every right to be there, she had known my grandad for so many years, and he's been a part of her life for a very long time. They loved each other. Of course she deserved to be there.
I have to admit, it made me want to cry when she hugged my grandad and said to him. "I'll miss you dad." She cried almost as hard as my mum had.
Liam is in his late twenty's. He's your typical Aussie bloke, and the whole time he'd been in the room with us all as we cried, he had not shed a tear.
So it was a huge shock to me when Warren and my Nanny finally arrived, and Liam flung his arms around Warren, said "I love you dad," and started sobbing.
Yeah, I shed a few tears over that one, probably the first time I'd really cried since I got there.
You could tell how upset my Nanny was, even before she started crying. Because of her bad health and that face that she walked with a walking stick, we had arranged for a wheelchair to be left at the entrance for her, so that she would get to the room faster. Every second mattered. To her, every second meant the world .
She held his hand, and stared at him in shock for a few moments. Then she bowed her head and began to weep. It was a horrible sound, and I'll never forget it for as long as I lived. It was the sound of a woman truly broken. There were parts of my heart that I'd trained myself not to bother with anymore, and the sound of my nanny crying felt like someone had stabbed through those barriers I built and was twisting that blade in every which direction.
"You were the love of my life," she sobbed. "And I'll never forget you. You were a great husband, and such a gentle man."
It was the most painful thing I'd ever seen.
And the thing that has stuck with me the most, other than the sound of her crying, was what she said afterwards.
She stood up on trembling, aged legs, kissed him on the head, and as she stroked his face she said "I'm here. You can sleep now."
It was really fucking hard, and I'm crying as I'm typing this. It's a horrible thing to have to think about, but it would be disrespectful to forget.
My dad arrived, along with a fresh wave of tears from everyone already there. I had yet to see my dad or Jake cry.
Next came the waiting game, and it seemed so much longer than it actually was. It felt like we'd spent the whole day in there, when in reality we where there by a quarter past three, and I was back home by six thirty.
It was hard with there being so many people in the room, and so many emotions thickening the air. All it took was for one of us to start crying again, and it was impossible for the rest of us not join in.
After a little while, my dad, Sarah, Liam and I decided to go outside and get some fresh air. We all stood around the entrance, and it was hard for us to make conversation. Sarah and Liam were about to wander off to find a good place for a cigarette, when Jake came down to meet us. "Guys," he called out, then shook his head. "He's gone."
I hadn't actually cried for myself until we went back and saw the body, knowing he wouldn't make that god-awful gagging noise again. There was a lot of crying and hugging after that, and still I sucked back my tears.
I held my nanny up as she gave grandad her final kiss, partly because I wanted to comfort her, and partly because she's so frail that she didn't have the strength to support herself by her arms for too long.
After a little while, most of us left the room, leaving behind my mum, my uncle and our nanny to say their final goodbyes.
I marvelled at how well my mother was holding up, how she was still able to joke with the nurse while we waited for her father to draw his last breath.
The last few weeks had been extremely stressful for her. When grandad was admitted to hospital her and Warren had told the nurses to put him straight into a nursing home when he came out, because he and nanny wouldn't go willingly. Nanny always said that if she was put in a nursing home she would kill herself, and that was hard on mum because as much as she didn't want to admit her, she couldn't keep doing everything herself. Nanny needed to go. It was hard for mum trying explain to nanny that grandad wasn't coming back, that he was going into a home.
The hardest part was that nanny is in the early stages of Alzheimer's, and every day nanny would ask her, "When is grandad coming home?"
And the explanation and tears would happen all over again.
The thing is, that my mum is such a mum. She's always so focused on everyone else – us, her daughters, my dad, her parents. She never thought about herself, putting everyone else first instead, as mum's tend to do. Because of this, there were so many times I wanted to ask her if she was okay, but I didn't know how. I didn't know if it was okay to ask her, and maybe the reason she was able to be okay was because nobody had.
She's an incredibly kind, strong, amazing woman.
I remember watching as the nurse offered my mum a number on a piece of paper. "This is for Kingston funeral's," she had said. "We use them a lot, and they're very good."
I remember smiling at the expression on the nurse's face when my mum responded, "Yes, were at one of theirs today."
Everyone headed back to my cousin's house afterwards. Except for me. I asked to be dropped off at home instead. I didn't feel like company. I hate it when people see me cry, and I had built up a lot of fucking tears.
I was really touched by the amount of people that sent me text messages offering their condolences.
There were a couple of things that bugged me about the whole process though.
Firstly, everyone kept telling me that they were here if I needed to talk. I appreciate the offer, but really, what good is talking going to do in this situation? This isn't a social issue that can be resolved, we could discuss it for ten years, but it wouldn't help. No amount of talking could bring him back.
The other thing: everyone kept sending flowers for my mum. I admire the effort, but in terms of practicality, I didn't understand. Flowers don't last that long, and my mother was never home. She had shit to do. She had to organise a funeral, she had to go see her mum everyday and make sure she was handling everything okay. By the time she was able to spend a day at home, they had all wilted.
If people had sent food, that would have been a different story. I went hungry for four days, because the last thing on anyone's mind was the fucking shopping.
The funeral was a week later.
Again, the amount of people that came to pay their respects was overwhelming, and I felt really blessed that they were all there to support us.
Mum and Warren did an amazing job at making sure that everyone in the immediate family was involved in the service. Liam and Jake lit the candles, I sprinkled the holy water. My sister and Nat placed the veil over the coffin, and my dad and Sarah carried the flowers that sat on top. Paul (Nat's husband), and Carly (Jake's girlfriend), sat the photo and it's stand on the front of the casket.
Everyone had their own job, so even if they couldn't speak, they still played their part. I know my sister was upset with herself for not speaking, but she knew that she wouldn't be able.
Liam and my sister had said outright that they wouldn't be able to speak. Jake and I read a passage each out of bible, and he read the eulogy from us grandkids, with me and Nat as back up. We both got a lot of compliments when it was over, every one told us that we did really well.
I felt a little bad for him, actually. I'm a very avid reader, and he was lucky if he read his school books, yet his passage was easily four times the size of mine. Talk about irony.
I made it through most of the service without crying, and it was Liam that eventually got me. I was sitting in-between my dad and Sarah, and Liam was on Sally's other side. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw her hugging him, and heard his sobbing. My eyes welled up, and a single tear escaped. I found out later that I was the one that made my dad start crying.
Walking the coffin out was when the tears really started. It took three people to help my nanny walk behind it, and even Paul and Carly were crying hard. I made my way to my sister, and held her as we followed behind them.
That was the first time I saw dad and Jake really start to cry. I honestly believe that I cried the least out of everyone that day. Everything seemed so final that day. The clearest memory I have of the funeral is my nanny's expression as the hearse drove away, taking to love of her life with it. It broke my heart.
So many people mentioned afterwards how handsome my grandad was. And I have to admit, every time I looked at his picture I thought 'good catch Nanny'. He was young in the photo, his thick dark hair combed back perfectly, as it would always be even in his old age. He was in his army uniform, and you could tell by looking at what people meant when they talked about the proud way he carried himself.
Another thing many people, people that had never met my grandad, said that they couldn't help but cry when then they saw my dad crying. I'm twenty one, and this was the first time that I'd seen my dad cry. He never cried. Watery eyes, maybe, but I'd never seem him have to wipe tears away until that day.
I'll miss my grandad. Even now, it doesn't seem like he's really gone. I'd never lost a grandparent before, I didn't know how I'd react.
But I know that going round to the house, no one will ever sit in his chair. I know that everyone remembers him as a gentle, kind man, who never complained and never said a bad word about anyone. He was well respected by a lot of people, and every one that met him couldn't help but admire him.
He fought for his country, he worked hard for his family.
He was the very definition of a gentleman.
And he will never be forgotten.
1924 - 2011