February 14th. The day we celebrate love. Not just romantic love.
For me it’s a day of remembrance.
This day marks the day my sweet grandma left this world, and I cannot even get my head around the fact it’s been 19 years. I still see her in my minds’ eye with her small frame, smiling eyes, perfect nails, rocking a light purple rinse. I always worry that as time goes by, I will somehow forget her. But deep inside I know this worry is ridiculous, since she was not one of those people that are easily forgotten. The letter below is my tribute to her, and everything she was to me.
To my lovely Babcia,
Today is Valentine’s. I still remember that day 19 years ago, when I flew in to see you in hospital. I thought I was prepared. After all, last time I came to Poland you gave me your special ring. You knew it was the last time, and so did I.
Yet somehow you are never quite prepared for seeing the person you love most, in their final moments. You didn’t look like you. Your kidneys were failing, and the bag attached to the catheter was pretty empty. I remember touching your face and your skin didn’t feel soft anymore, it felt swollen and strange, and I panicked a little. I sat by your bed talking to you, telling you about my life. Telling you I was happy, and that you shouldn’t worry because I was going to be ok. You always worried about me. You made a noise and your eyes flickered, so I told myself you understood. As I was talking, I was desperately squeezing the little tubes attached to your wee bag, hoping that magically I will get your kidneys going again. I can’t remember how long I sat there for. Wayne came and got me, to take me away for a break. We went to a restaurant, and the only thing I remember is ordering a bottle of Rose, and then getting THE call. You was gone.
I remember running out of the restaurant but I don’t remember much about what happened after, maybe I blocked it out. I hope you knew I was there that day. I think you was waiting for me to come, because you let go so soon after.
My next memory is the funeral, and how grandad sat there next to the open coffin. For a big man, he looked so small. So devastated. He reached in and and grabbed your hand, and I could hear him desperately saying your name. My heart broke for him that day. You were together so long, married for 54 years. And despite things not always being smooth, I grew up just knowing and feeling, that you really loved each other. Even in your 80’s he would playfully grab you and sit you on his lap. In fact it was you who made me believe that despite ups and downs, if people truly lovely each other, that love is worth fighting for.
I remember grandad too, as I remember you. Growing up in 80’s and 90’s Poland, Valentines wasn’t celebrated. But on March the 8th, International Women’s day, grandad would become a right flirt. Any female walking through the door would get a flower, maybe a little chocolate. And she would definitely get sprinkled with perfume. He was a funny man. As we all said goodbye, I felt in my veins how lonely he will be without you. He too was gone, a couple of years later.
Grief is a funny thing. I don’t remember having a massive hysterical fit, or crying my eyes out for days. I was surprised as that’s what I expected, but It just didn’t happen that way. Instead it came in little waves, some bigger, some smaller. They are not as frequent now, but they still turn up. I don’t shy away from them, I relish those moments to remember you and have a little cry. I think about you almost every day anyway, mostly when moisturizing. Sounds weird but…
This is the part where I tell you, you was right. Moisturizing your body every day is definitely a good thing. I have never gone a day without doing that. And you will be pleased to know, I passed this on to Isabelle. Our beautiful girl, who is almost 18 now. I’m so sad that you never got to met her. We tried hard to fall pregnant, but it was taking a while. I remember feeling really sad on the day your birthday came, some months after you left us. I wanted to pick up the phone but there was no one to call. Being comforted by Wayne, and then feeling guilty about getting intimate. I remember saying to him “maybe this will be the time it happens”. Isabelle was born, to the day, 9 months later.
Co-incidence or not, I will always feel she was your little gift to us. I will always be thankful. 19 years later, your number is still in my phone.
I missed you so much when I was giving birth, I imagined you in that hospital room by my side. Your energy was there, and in my minds’ eye, you held my hand. For four days none the less. Isabelle was a stubborn one from birth, and still head strong now. Must be a family thing eh? I missed you at my wedding too, but I felt you there, walking along side me, encouraging me to be brave. You’ve come on every holiday, and every time I fasten the seat belt on the plane, I can see you sitting on the wing, waving, and telling me it will be a safe flight. You are always right here.
I’m thankful for you bringing me up, and being my constant in the chaos. I thank you for my memories of big family gatherings at your home. You fed everyone, you always smiled and you always had a hug for us all. You were the hub of the family, everyone swarming to you. Knowing that if they would walk through your door, there would always be a meal, a kind word. You smiled a lot, and I know your life was never easy. You sacrificed many years with your husband to look after me and my brother. I never knew this when I was younger. I just thought you lived with us and sometimes we stayed at yours. You was the person that made me feel loved. And not just me. Whenever I go back to Poland, in whatever context you get mentioned, people will say what a kind and lovely person you were.
My memories of you are almost always in your kitchen. You and grandad used the windowsill as a fridge, and there was always an assortment of pots and pans filled with food. You seemed to be always cooking something , with little me trying to help you, and you patiently teaching me. Me proudly presenting little smorgasbords of assorted open sandwiches. I still do that now you know, you would be proud. I loved being with you in that kitchen, it was our time.
Then there was grandad time. He was a big character, a bit scary at times with his booming voice. Always watching the news, or an important political debate. But he always made time for us grandchildren. He taught me nice handwriting, and taught me how to play cards and dice. We played for hours, and as I got older we played for money to make it more intense. Just small change, but it added to the challenge. He was always very serious as we prepared the gaming table, and laid out the green felt tablecloth. Our favorite game was Canasta, and soon the student started beating the master. It makes me smile to think back about the Canasta marathons we had. I still love playing it now.
You often came in and sat in the comfy chair on the side of the room, and just watched us with a small smile on your face. I often asked if you wanted to learn, or join in. You always told me you just liked watching us play. It was comforting to have you there. I would always glance over and sometimes caught you daydreaming, your face resting on your hand and a content look on your face. I wish I asked you, what you was day dreaming about. In fact I wish I asked you more about everything. Not stuff. But how things felt to you.
What did it FEEL like to have lived through a war? I remember snippets of conversations, but I wish there was more. By the time I was old enough to ask you, I had moved away to the UK. And being an angry and confused teen, I was too absorbed in my world, to ponder such things. That I regret, but it’s the circle of life, isn’t it?
You made a difference to my life in so many ways. You taught me that kindness costs nothing, and can make a difference to everything. I always knew I wanted to be a mum. I just wanted to make my child feel as loved as you made me feel. That deep need to nurture is something that I have in me now, and only gets stronger the older I get. As Isabelle is getting ready to flee the nest, my energies are turning to what I can do with this feeling. The feeling of wanting to give, to do my bit in making the world a kinder place. You taught me the biggest gift you can give to others is time. You always gave people your love, and your time. I watched a TV program recently called “Tales in the City”. In it, was an elderly lady called Mona. She so reminded me of you. Kind and loving and a safe haven for people to come to. Full of love, mischief, wisdom and life energy, right until she slipped away.
We’ve had a rough start to 2020, with a death & illness in the family. As these things happen, I find myself pondering – how would I like to be remembered? One day when I’m gone, what will be the feeling that is left behind? I’m not talking about what will be said at the funeral, or what strangers might believe about me. I’m talking about the energy, the feeling that is left. And I know the answer – I want to leave behind a legacy of love and authenticity. I want to be remembered as a person that is honest, authentic and uncompromising in her pursuit of kindness and truth. I spent a lot of my life angry, and only now I am making sense of it all and realizing that anger is just energy. Energy that can be used for a purpose.
I want to finish off to let you know that the most cherished memory I hang on to of you was the penultimate time I saw you. I can’t even describe the feeling I had when I walked into your little flat, and saw you standing there, with your arms open. I remember that hug, and how much love there was going both ways. You felt little and frail in my arms, and as I held on to you, it felt like home. Actually, It felt like a thousand things all at once. Love, safety, belonging. And sadness too, as I knew you was slipping away. That visit was sobering. You was ill by then, with the cancer spreading through your frail body. I remember helping you in the toilet and once again I felt acutely the reality of life, and how it just keeps going, unapologetic and certain. One day we will all be old, and one day we will all die. Sometimes we look at the people that bring us up, as indestructible.
But the tables always turn, and one day the indestructible become the cared for, instead of being the care takers.
We talked a lot during that visit. We watched movies on HBO, you rested a lot, I painted your nails. When I see the ring you gave me on my hand, I see your hands. Bony and vascular, with thin wrists that look fragile but are surprisingly strong. I loved your hands, and I love mine, because they remind me of you.
There is so much more I could write. I want you to know that I have done my best to make those who matter to me, feel loved. I have made mistakes when I was younger, but I accept that without those, there wouldn’t be growth. Whenever I feel lost, that memory of that hug, that deep feeling of belonging , brings me back on track. I ask myself, what do I want? Is whatever I am doing right now kind to myself, and others? Am I being true to myself? How do I want to be remembered?
One day when I’m old and grey, I want to be somebody’s Babcia, somebody’s Mona. I imagine myself living in a cottage by the sea, tending to a rose garden. I imagine Wayne and I, being the safe place, the hub. The place that our family and friends always want to come to, and they are drawn too. Somewhere where there is always a hug, a good meal, and a kind word (this bit I have down to a tee, you will be pleased to know!). I want to leave a legacy of love. I want that positive energy to be left behind when I’m long gone. I want to remembered, in the way I remember you.
And I remember you vividly today, in my heart and in my bones.
Happy love day everyone.
Maria is a Therapeutic Life Coach, Business Coach, Photographer & free spirit. Multi passionate, logical, creative, and an extrovert introvert. Fascinated by people, psychology and most at home by the sea. Foodie & dog lover.
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