Sometimes The Best Way to Honour The Dead is to Celebrate

The last photo I have of Nana, taken with my Dad on my birthday, 6 September, 2012

The last photo I have of Nana, taken with my Dad on my birthday, 6 September, 2012

“We’re all ghosts. We all carry, inside us, people who came before us.”
~ Liam Callanan, The Cloud Atlas

My beloved Nana would have turned one hundred yesterday.

She passed three years ago, and I find myself missing her more as time goes on. We had a very special connection, and I still talk with her and feel her guiding presence in my life.

Yesterday I held a little celebration of her life, in a way that Nana would have appreciated. A cup of tea and a toasted ham, cheese and tomato sandwich (her favourite) followed by a pink cupcake. It wasn’t Nana, but it was the next best thing. The kind of ritual we had followed in life. Her traditional choice of meal if we went out shopping together.

Homemade toasties, just like Nana used to make!

Homemade toasties, just like Nana used to make!

As I age I seem to be gathering so many ghosts to me. It’s like that for all of us, I think. Friends die. Relatives too. Young and old and in-between. So many holes in our hearts, empty places at our tables.

The dead no longer occupy physical space in our lives, but they live on in our hearts. It only takes a song, the smell of cooking on the breeze, a certain place or particular company and they are right here with me. Sometimes, they visit me as ghosts. The veil between me and that other place can be nearly transparent at times.

People have told me that time heals and that memory fades,that eventually I will forget and move on, but I have to disagree. When you truly love someone, that love doesn’t fade if they are no longer here. Hearts are big enough to love many, and keep loving. The nature of the relationship changes, but the heart remembers. I’m glad it does. Why would you want to forget someone so precious?

Yesterday was also a time of reflection for me. Only three years ago I was dying from heart failure. I was on holidays in Thailand when Nana passed in November 2012. I’d had chest pain all day. I was struggling to walk. To breathe. Everything was hard, and I felt so ill and low. I wondered if it was the last holiday I might ever have with my husband.

When I found out about my grandmother’s death I walked down to the beach, and stood in the dark with my feet lapped by the warm caress of the ocean. The sky was lit with stars and as tears rolled down my face I looked up to the heavens and asked my Nana to help me. I told her that I couldn’t keep doing this – living with so much suffering and ill health. I wanted to live, or be done with it. Not this in-between place I’d been in for so long.

Only a few days later, back in Bangkok, a friend suggested that I get my thyroid checked again when I got home to Australia. A bizarre out-of-the-blue comment that led to my lyme diagnosis and subsequent treatment that turned my health around. I truly believe that Nana heard me that night, and helped in a way she’d never been able to while she was alive.

I’ll keep celebrating Nana’s birthday each year. It brings me comfort. It helps me to hold her close. Or maybe she’s holding me. All I know is that acknowledging her birthday seems as natural and right as it did when she was still here to eat that cake with me!

Sometimes the best way to honour our dead is to celebrate their living.

Thinking of you and sending much love, Nicole <3 xx

That's me on my Dad's lap and my little sister on Nana's lap

That’s me on my Dad’s lap and my little sister on Nana’s lap

11 thoughts on “Sometimes The Best Way to Honour The Dead is to Celebrate

  1. Beautiful Nicole. “The best way to honour our dead is to celebrate their living”. Of course, that is what they want for us. I’m happy that you celebrate your Nana’s birthday every year and that you find comfort in that. I find comfort reading your posts. Thank you Nicole xox

  2. Very touching and reassuring post. I awoke this morning feeling sad (even tears) that this sunday will be the first Fathers Day I can’t call him and wish him lots of Love…instead I will take a swim in the Bay and look out to the mountains ranges & Woolumbin and talk to him this way. Thank you Darlin’…XOXO

  3. Hi Nicole, thank you for today’s post. My dad died 2 weeks ago with the funeral last Friday. Will be making Hungarian goulash on Sunday for Father’s Day as he was Hungarian and always cooked it.
    Your words today have given me great reassurance.
    Many thanks, lisa

  4. Thanks, Nicole, for another lovely post – how wonderful to celebrate your nana, and to know that she has helped you too. I will be celebrating my wonderful mum’s life on Friday, though probably with chocolate rather than toasties! Xx

  5. She seemed like a grand old lady.
    How I treasure the wisdom and love they have.
    I would like more wise older mentors in my life.
    I am glad you are celebrating her birthday.

  6. Dear Nicole, thank you for such honest writing. This truly struck a cord with me. It gives me insight into how to better manage my own ghosts and to celebrate my relationship with my grandparents.

  7. Dear Nicole,
    Even I had such a wonderful grandparent , my mom’ s dad or Daddy as we lovingly called him. We might have lost his physical presence in 2011, December 21st to be precise. To this day and any day henceforth I m pretty sure he is around us , watching over us … Guiding us. We are very lucky , all us sisters, to have been blessed with such loving grandparents. Salutations to all of them who watch over their grandkids……
    Lots of Love.

  8. I so agree with you. I still talk to my mother and keep things around the she made. Pictures of the two of us laughing. Dad makes himself known more often than I’d like but he’s still teaching. No one is ever really gone.

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