It’s taken me a while to write this post.
I had so many good intentions for the holiday season of 2017 and the start of 2018. I was going to step up the writing while my husband was still off work; start a new series of blog posts, get going on the new novel I’ve got planned and maybe even keep going with a couple of the old ones (ha!). Of course I was going to write a terribly sincere blog post about my 2017, and my intentions for 2018, new year’s resolutions that I’d never keep coming out of my ears as always.
But life has a way of taking your best intentions and giving them a good old punch to the gut.
A couple of days after Christmas saw me and my mum rushing to the car in the middle of the night, and speeding across the country to Shrewsbury where my nan was severely ill. My cousins were in the hospital with her. When we heard my no-nonsense cousin telling us we had to go, and we had to go then, we knew things weren’t good.
Over the next day or so, the rest of our family joined us, flying in from Guernsey and Dubai in a surreal gathering in a rather grim hospital. We’d not been in the same room, all of us, since… well, since ever. We didn’t even manage quite such a turn-out for the couple of family weddings that have happened in the past few years.
I look back over those few days and some parts are just a blur. Not even like scenes from a nightmare; more like scenes from the kind of hallucination you get under anaesthetic. So exhausted you’re trying to swim up and up, to climb out and make life normal again, only to find the sea you’re drowning in has no surface.
Some things will stick in my mind forever.
The wasted body in the bed, who used to be Nan; all of us willing each laboured breath to be the last, to put her out of the indignity of a slow death on the NHS.
Drifting through the quiet hospital hallways, desperately trying to find a place to sleep, but finding unconscious relatives round every corner. My mum on two sofas pushed together in a ‘counselling room’; an uncle on a recliner in Ambulatory Care; a cousin on a hospital trolley; another cousin on three café chairs pushed together, another uncle in a relatives’ room that we weren’t technically entitled to use. Eventually finding a deserted dining room full of broken vending machines and managing to get half an hour of sleep with my head on a plastic table.
The moments of incongruous hilarity. Rounding a corner in the middle of the night and wondering why it looked like a UFO was landing: only to realise it was the lights of a Christmas tree reflecting off a sleeping uncle’s bald patch. Several assorted family members eating cheesy chips with garlic mayo around a deathbed, arguing loudly about Brexit. Reminiscing about times in Guernsey, Micro Chips and strawberry Mivvis, and laughing until tears were running down our faces.
The staff must have thought we were the epitome of disrespectful: but in times of grief, I think sometimes it’s a toss-up between laughing and crying, and a lot of the time, we chose to laugh. I think it was much better that in my nan’s last couple of days, she wasn’t surrounded by hushed voices and weeping: she was surrounded by laughter, by loud Guernsey accents and the voices of all her children and grandchildren.
She died on December 30th, with family all around her, and she will be missed.
Now, with a new job looming for Kev and (hopefully) a new house on the horizon, along with Nan’s funeral and, in my case, being an honorary groomsman in some dear friends’ wedding, we’re busier than we’ve been for a long time. I promise I’m still writing, and still drinking lots and lots of coffee, and there are many good things to come in 2018!