What does it feel like to grieve with a newborn? Last week, I went with my Dad to register my nan’s death and then went straight to a Baby Massage class. People probably saw just another chatty mum playing with her baby; it’s the Brave Face, you see? Inside, I was emotional. For Dad. For me. For my family. But I thought wouldn’t be fair on Mini Lass if I continued in my emotion and didn’t engage with her. Especially when her face looks up expectantly; you’re her everything. She wouldn’t know if we didn’t go to class today because mummy’s upset; she’s only 3 months old. But I’d know. As it turns out, it was a welcome distraction to watch her little face light up and reminded me that, however sad, life must go on.
When Nan passed I was filled with shock. I sat with my family waiting for the doctor to confirm the sad reality. I was numb. That evening is still surreal. It’s like it happened to somebody else. My childhood memories are of visiting her and grandad every weekend for her homemade meat and potato pie. She let us use her wooden washing line pegs to create our own little peg-people by sticking wool on them to make hair and clothes. In my teens and 20s we weren’t close; my parents were no longer together so the visits weren’t regular and I know I could’ve visited a lot more. But more recently, during my pregnancy and with nan’s decreasing independence, I have spent more time with her and as adult appreciated her in a different way. I feel lucky.
Her memory loss was increasing but she would apologise for forgetting and laugh it off or dismiss it. She didn’t get angry with it. At times, she couldn’t remember the names of her children or that grandad had passed many years earlier. It was heartbreaking. She would ask me 8-10 times in a single visit when my baby was due. I’d reply as if it was the first time she asked me. That’s the right thing to do isn’t it? She’d tell me that she had 5 kids and that this made her a “greedy cow” and she would burst out laughing. She was always laughing. Despite her Alzheimer’s, she was content. She was a cheeky woman with a glint in her eye. Funny. Would curse. A lot. She liked to sing and hum to herself. She would recall words of songs. She had rare moments of clarity. One memory I have with her was recently. We talked about Labour. We related woman to woman. For that moment she was simply a woman relaying her experience. In that moment, she didn’t mistake me for a nurse or ask me to explain where she was. We were just friends discussing the ups and downs of labour and babies over a cup of tea and a biscuit.
She didn’t like my baby’s name. This amused my family and we still laugh about it now! And that was fine; we just called Mini Lass by her middle name instead, which she declared as “beautiful”. I’ll tell Mini Lass when she’s older that her great nannan preferred her middle name which incidentally, was my other great nannan’s first name.
She passed suddenly and it still doesn’t seem real. That first day I couldn’t really look at Mini Lass; I looked straight through her. But now, I remember that with every smile Mini Lass gives me and her reliance on me as her mum that we have to keep going and we all have to make the most of every single day.
In loving memory of Lily x