Today we will lay Next door Nana to rest. She was 97 years old and a story book grandma – petite in build, silver hair, alert eyes and a slightly mischievous smile.
You could always see her at the big bay window … her face pressed against the pane as she looked out and waved at passers by. She had her meals at a table at that window – and the ‘walkers’ would pause to exchange a greeting.
Sometimes she would venture out to get ‘up close and personal’ :)
I think I first met her on one such occasion when, bored with standing there, she came to my doorway, curious to see what her neighbour was up to.
I was just about to invite her in when the helper appeared, alarmed that ‘nona’ (Sinhalese for Lady) had wandered over. Assuring them I would take her back, I invited her in to watch me working in the garden. I think she enjoyed the break.
It was the beginning of a few such encounters in the early years. She would wander over to keep me company whilst I did my chores. I would put some music on and she would sit watching me or walk around around till it was time for lunch or someone came to fetch her.
The ‘someone’ was one of the many helpers hired by her daughter in Australia who maintained a home here for her mother. When she started getting on in age, Rosemarie and son-in law Mike would take turns – one spending time here with the other remaining in Sydney with their children and grandchildren. They would then ‘switch’ – meeting up in either country so they could be together a week or two before exchanging locations. I have never seen such commitment from a daughter – or for that matter a son-in-law, for Mike took on the role of the son that Nana lost at an early age.
When Mike passed on unexpectedly about five years ago, there was no one to ‘switch’ with Rosemarie. Nana had longer spells of being alone. But despite the financial toll, and pain of separation from her grand-children, Rosemarie would make two or three trips a year to be with her Mum (- all because the Australian government just did not have the humanity in them to allow Nana to join her daughter. Incredibly, they did not even grant her a holiday visa – such is the ‘heart’ of a big nation.)
Rosemarie was due on 20th November to spend Christmas with her Mum who had been in reasonably good health when she was here in August. Nana had fallen a couple of times but had recovered and was not on any medication. Rosemarie planned to spend Christmas with her mum.
Sadly, Nana took ill unexpectedly on Tuesday. She joined her Maker early on Wednesday morning.
By the grace of God, something nudged me to drop in on Monday. Nana was watching TV. She had developed a fever and was looking a bit under the weather. At lunch time, we assisted her to the dining table. On an unexplained impulse – for I had not taken one with her before – I took a selfie.
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Again, something, I know not what, made me inform our priest that he should visit soon. House visitations are normally on Fridays but again providentially he said he would drop in next morning.
When I went in to wait for him, Nana’s fever had unexpectedly taken a turn for the worse. I held her hand and sang to her, hymns of comfort and the Our Father. She smiled once at something in the distance and I thought she was slipping away but she continued to hold my hand. My sister joined me. Our priest Fr. Anton Saman annointed her and gave her Holy Communion.
The Doctors visited but she was too weak to respond to medication. She was reunited with her Creator later that night. A peaceful, serene death with no suffering nor pain except slight difficulty in breathing. A grace-filled death for a graceful lady.
I am thankful for the mercy that sent me there, to allow me to get the priest and comfort her in some small way although I am sad that circumstances did not permit me to be with her in her final hours.
But I will cherish the time spent together and the memories of a lively, lovely gentle lady who was alert enough to remind me if I was being careless :)
I had the habit of dropping in ‘garage to garage‘ a couple of times for a quick hello and she would always offer me a cup of tea or persuade me to join her for lunch. One day, I said I would have to be quick as I had not locked up. After that, she would check with me if anyone was home or if I had locked up. I rarely did as these were impromptu visits so I used to tell her I would sit at her seat by the window and keep watch on the street.
She also always inquired about my mum – whether she was staying with me or my sister, and on at least two occasions berated me for parking my car on the road with a curious ‘Why don’t you put it in the garage?’
That’s a good question Nana. Why don’t I? I said I would, but truth is, I need to get my garage door fixed!
When I used to take her to church some time back, she would always want the page turned and attempt to sing and follow the service – or ‘pretend’ the way little children do :) They, the children just adored this picture book grandma.
Sadly she will not be around for them or for the passers by on Lake Road. It will take some time to get used to an empty window at 329/124. But the big bay window will be a reminder to all that there once was a little lady who, as our priest said, stood there and gave everyone what she could: a cheery smile and a wave that brought joy to all.
Rest in eternal joy with your Maker, sweet and gentle lady – Madam Doreen Webster.
Note: This post was begun on 7th November but I had another bereavement in the family … a beloved Uncle who was the same age 96! It has been a melancholy two weeks with the loss of two wonderful nonagenarians – a gracious lady and a true gentleman and scholar about whom I can write volumes. Maybe soon…