Today it is 27 years since my Nana died. I only remembered after I'd written the date a few times, however I do have vivid memories of the day she died and the week after.
I was 10 years old and in top class at primary school. Nana's house was on the route to school so I used to walk to there with my mum and my sister then cross the park to my friend's house and walk to school with her (oh, the grown up responsibility - walking 3 blocks with no adult supervision!). On 2nd December 1982 Mum asked me if I wanted to go and see Nana on the way because I'd not seen her all week. I said that I didn't and skipped off to Tara's house.
Later that night, just as I'd gone to bed, the phone rang. I could hear mum's muffled voice then I heard her make another phone call. About 15 minutes later, my aunt and uncle came round and my mum and dad went out. My aunt came upstairs and said that my Nana had called to say she was unwell, could my mum go round and that she had come to look after my sister and I for a while.
I couldn't sleep. My 10 year old brain was telling me that something just wasn't quite right. I tossed and turned for what seemed like an age and then then I heard the front door open and close. I listened to snippets of the conversation and worked out what was going on. Nana had died.
I sat at the top of the stairs with my legs outstretched; my heels on my feet touching the very edge of the top step so that all you could have seen from the bottom of the stairs was the underneath of my foot and I imagined that this is how Nana was now, waiting in Purgatory, before she went to Heaven. It's how the mind of a good Catholic girl worked, you see - I was mixing up 'souls' and 'soles'. I must have been sat there a while because I heard a lot more detail about what the doctor thought was the cause of death, how the fire brigade had had to break into her flat and where she was when she was found. I heard my dad moving around downstairs and scuttled back to bed. He then came upstairs, woke my sister and I (I pretended to be asleep) and broke the news to us.
The next day I went to school as normal, but we walked a different route - not past Nana's house. Once in school and before class started, we said morning prayers and my teacher mentioned her during a remembrance prayer. I then started to feel guilty. All I could remember was not wanting to go and visit her the previous morning... I'd just wanted to go and call for my friend and walk to school on my own.
Although I don't remember much about the next week, it must have affected me a lot. I told my parents what I had heard on the night she died and they were surprised at how much I already knew. They also realised why I was now so upset even though they'd tried to protect me from the sadness. I begged and begged to go to the funeral as I felt that it was my way to make amends and say goodbye.
When I had my own children and they started developing their own personalities, my mum would say, "Your Nana would have loved Rachel/Michael/Jake"... and, I agree, she would. And it's because of the lovely memories I have of my Nana that I also wanted to be called "Nana" when my daughter first found out she was pregnant last year.