On August 23rd, she and I celebrated her 83rd birthday with a restaurant meal and a half bottle of white wine. A couple of weeks later she had a fall at her home and was admitted to hospital. A stroke was diagnosed, then further tests revealed that she had a brain tumour.
She was moved from Lewisham Hospital to St. Christopher's Hospice in Sydenham, where the staff could not have been kinder to patients or relatives. It wasn't where she wanted to be, of course, and it broke my heart that I couldn't take her home with me when she kept asking one of us to. "You're all making excuses, you people," she said when we pointed out she couldn't walk or go to the loo and looking after her was therefore more than we could manage.
Early last week she stopped talking, though she knew who was there and would take your hand and squeeze it. Then she stopped responding; then you couldn't tell if she was awake or asleep; then some time in the early hours of Friday morning she was gone. Everyone who saw her in that final week must be relieved that it's over.
While in the clutches of the hospital, Grandma talked about killing herself and told me she had asked not be be resuscitated if she had a heart attack. People said this was an effect of the stroke or the medication, but to me it was typically brave and sensible thinking: she knew that whatever happened she wouldn't be going back to the little flat where she had been living on her own and independently since her husband died in 1994, and, in her own words, she 'didn't want to be remembered as a miserable old woman'.
She won't be, of course. When I think of Grandma, I remember her:
- politely saying "My word!" as I showed her animal pictures in my scrapbook
- saving shiny new pennies and 2p pieces all year for my Christmas stocking
- playing football with me
- letting me ride in the front seat of her car as there were no seat belts in the back
- buying me Tintin books
- buying me Thundercats figures and listening to my explanations of who they all were
- attending my graduation
- admiring my scooters (she used to ride one)
- being unconditionally loving, supportive and proud of me as only a grandparent can