The last five weeks have been the most difficult of my life so far. I know that I am not alone when I say that. Testing, draining and seemingly impossible does not even begin to cover it. Isolation challenges us in many different ways. For a start, it leads us to be faced with truths about our lives and ourselves. That can be hard enough in itself. I can openly admit that I have struggled with the lockdown restrictions far more than I thought I would. Not being able to comfort my family during such a frightening and uncertain time has really affected me, not only physically, but mentally and emotionally too. I have had to actively fight my natural instincts every minute of every day, which is not at all easy to do. Losing my treasured Nanna Doris in the midst of it all without the ability to cuddle my Grandad Harry has well and truly broken my heart. We are a very affectionate, loving family. My Nanna was our rock, our matriarch, our world. Her kisses and cuddles got us through whatever life threw at us. Anyone that knows me well, knows exactly what she meant to me. She was my grandmother, but more like a mum, and my dearest friend too. She taught me so much about life, whilst lighting mine up, and she really has shaped me into the person I am today. People often tell me that I come across as particularly thoughtful and caring. The truth is that those are her traits shining through me. My Nanna and I were extremely close and I loved her with all of my heart. We spent so much time together. I have always aspired to be like her and more than anything, I have always wanted to make her proud. That will never change, but everything else about life as I knew it has been flipped upside down recently. This post is not about my pain or loss though. In fact, it’s not about the struggle we currently find ourselves in at all. It’s actually about the positive aspects that I’ve observed from within it. My husband Darren recently said that of all the things he loved about my Nanna, it is her positivity that he will miss the most. This might be a completely strange and difficult time, but adopting my Nan’s positive outlook on life has allowed me to see the silver linings. They really are always there – sometimes you just have to look a lot closer to see them.
The first silver lining for me is the sunshine. I have been honestly and truly grateful for it. There have been so many times lately that there have been rain clouds appearing in my mind, yet being able to sit outside and look towards the bright sky has led me to feel a little more positive again. Like many people, I feel happier in general when the sun is out. Let’s face it – everything seems to improve with a bit of sunshine. Children play more, adults celebrate more, things just appear to be more positive, we feel better about our lives and ourselves. I’m not the only person to have described my Nanna Doris as a bright presence, as that’s exactly what she was like. So when the sun is shining, I naturally feel closer to her too. I really do feel that we’ve been blessed to have the sun shining on us during this time.
The second silver lining that has quite frankly astounded me is the sense of community and gratitude despite everything that is happening. People are losing their loved ones yet their positivity is shining through. The fact is that we are not allowed to physically contact each other, yet we are emotionally bonded by togetherness. People are pushing aside their political differences to unite, they are talking to each other more, helping each other and being there for each other. Every Thursday evening, we stand on our doorsteps together and we clap for the NHS. We stand far apart in distance yet close together in heart to show our respect and admiration for the incredibly brave and selfless key workers. How amazing that we have found a way to be together at a time in which we aren’t even allowed to stand side by side at all? The fact that the event takes place on a Thursday is also extremely meaningful to me personally. My Nanna fell asleep on Thursday 2nd April. We laid her to rest on Thursday 9th April and her ashes arrived with us on Thursday 16th April. Thursdays are therefore very significant in her passing, and taking part in the clapping allows me to feel like I’m paying my own respects to the amazing people that settled her and cared for her before she fell asleep for the last time. I haven’t been able to thank them face to face, but I’ve been able to do it from my home with my husband by my side or at the end of my Grandad’s path, with him in loving sight. That’s the next best thing.
The third silver lining for me is modern technology. The night after my Nanna fell asleep, the medium of smart phones and social media absolutely moved me. My family and I were faced with the upsetting reality that we would not be able to give her the big, bright and beautiful send off that she more than deserved. Yet Facebook enabled us all to raise a glass to the sky for her in unison and enjoy drinks in tribute to her. People that loved her were able to celebrate her life and share their own personal memories of her. People that didn’t know her, but knew what she meant to us, kindly paid their respects too. I clinked champagne glasses with my husband, whilst my Grandad sipped a sherry on the phone to us, and together we listened to my brother in law talking about my Nanna on a live video stream. My uncle’s partner dedicated a stunning performance to her, too. They were absolutely beautiful tributes and it brought immense comfort to us, because we knew she would have smiled and felt honoured. It was a heart breaking time but we felt surrounded by love and kindness, and none of it would have been possible without modern technology. After years of moaning that we all spend too much time on our phones, I have recently been so grateful for it. It has become our way of keeping sane, of keeping in touch and of keeping our loved ones as virtually close as possible. Smart phones have allowed my family to speak to each other everyday, to see each other in our own homes and best of all, to make each other smile when we didn’t think we would be able to. Having the ability to send each other photos and video clips has also allowed us to keep our Nanna’s spirit alive. We are able to carry our favourite memories around with us. We can watch her singing and dancing, wherever we are. We have been able to make my Grandad smile and laugh while his wife’s charmingly distinct voice beams through our phones saying “have a nice day now, honey bunnies!”. We can hear her saying “helloooo!”, her trademark “cooooieeee!” and more importantly telling us that she loves us. How precious is that? I also recently discovered that Darren has taken so many natural photos of me and my Nan together over the years. Photos that I wasn’t even aware of! Ones of us walking together, holding hands, linking arms, sharing food, laughing together and whispering to each other. There is one picture in which I am sitting at her feet, in front of her fireplace. I’m talking to her and she’s leaning over her armchair and smiling, whilst playing with my hair. There is another where the two of us are wearing our pyjamas. I’ve just got out of the shower and she’s drying my hair for me. There are so many beautifully natural moments and pure examples of love that I am able to relive for the rest of my life – thanks to my thoughtful other half and his brilliant use of his smart phone. A giant Kodak camera wouldn’t have had the same discreet effect at all!
The fourth silver lining and the concept that has amazed me the most is how prevalent love, care and kindness really are within difficult times. Not a single person has been allowed to step foot inside our homes recently or even been allowed to put their arms around us. Those are certainly the comforts that I would usually personally depend on. Yet we have felt absolutely surrounded with support regardless. We have received hundreds of kind messages and cards reminding us of the love that is out there. We received so many flowers that we had to start using cups as vases! Within days of my Nanna passing, I received precious keepsakes from my best friends – a key ring with her photo on and some beautiful words that I can carry with me whenever I leave my home, as well as a heart shaped necklace with a photo of the two of us at my wedding embellished on. Another cherished gift was all of my favourite treats and snacks being delivered directly to my door. I had hardly eaten that day, and that beautiful soul encouraged me to have something, like I know my Nanna would have wanted. People have cooked meals and baked cakes for all of us. It’s honestly been astounding.
I was also completely touched by the kindness of Vodafone recently. Not having contact with my Nanna for nine whole days while she was in hospital was truly awful. I usually speak to her every single day, so I can openly admit that I went out of my mind during those nine long, unnerving days. I cried so, so much. When she eventually received a phone, we called her immediately. I personally racked up a hefty phone bill while Darren and I told her how much we had missed her, how much we love her and how proud we are of her. She told me how she’d been doing and I did my very best to comfort her over the phone. The access charges were ridiculous but like I said to Darren, I honestly wouldn’t have cared if it had drained my whole bank account. Those phone conversations were truly priceless to me. Yet I received this message from Vodafone a couple of days ago:
“Hello. We understand that in these difficult times staying connected is more important than ever. So we’ll be refunding the Access Charges you recently paid for calling someone in hospital using the Hospedia Bedside Phone Service. You don’t need to do anything, we’ve already refunded these to your Vodafone account – you’ll see this as a credit on your next bill. Thank you for choosing Vodafone.”
That’s not just amazing customer service, it’s amazing customer care – and it honestly moved me to tears. We all know that businesses are struggling yet the main concern of everyone seems to be other people’s welfare. It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen before. The moral of the story, and this post, is that I am thankful. Despite the pain, despite the loss, I feel grateful. I said to my Nanna at her funeral “Losing you was like the brightest light in the world going out, but I know it would bring you comfort to know that we are all carrying a torch for you and helping each other through the dark”. So thank you to everyone that has been there in whatever way over the last five weeks. You have all shone a torch for my family in different ways, helping us to find our way and I will never, ever forget your help.
From the bottom of my heart, I send you all my love, my heartfelt thanks and also my hope. Look after yourselves and try your very best to look for your own silver linings. They are there. I promise xxx