My dear old Grandad passed away on Friday. He was 99, eight weeks short of his 100th birthday and his telegram from the Queen. He was quite a man – incredibly resilient – and it was a real feat to live so long. I’d love to write reams about him but he was also very humble and private so it’d be wrong to say too much. I’m sure he’d be shocked by the fact that people bare their souls on the Internet these days (or maybe it’s just his granddaughter who does that!).
All I’ll say, however, is that I’m pleased there’s a little bit of him in me. I’m not quite sure which bit that is. His persistence and determination perhaps? I know I have those characteristics in me but often my fear, low self-esteem and negative-thinking hijack them. Maybe I have a small piece of his sporting ability, or a bit of his faith, his courage, his Liverpudlian sense of humour, or his reserve (I can be reserved when the mood takes me). Or maybe I share some of that resilience that got him to such a ripe old age.
Whatever bit it is, it’s comforting to know that he lives on – in his children, his grandchildren, his great-grandchildren and the children that are to come. And that thought, somehow, inspires me to do my best, to live a life worthy of those who’ve gone before me, of those who gave me their genes, if that doesn’t sound too grandiose.
Nevertheless, there’s still that inevitable feeling of loss, even if his time had come. Sometimes I think I feel the loss more acutely because my family is very small and because I don’t have children of my own. Maybe it’s egotistical to think about continuing the family line but, as has been said many times before by people much more eloquent than me, death – and particularly of a parent or grandparent – reminds us of our own mortality. And I think if we’re single and childless/childfree, it prompts us to think about the life cycle and what – if anything – we’ll leave behind.
Loss, of course, also triggers memories of other losses and in my case, of the loss of my Dad. I initially thought it wrong to allow those memories to come back and get mixed up with the present-day ones. But then I realised that it’s all part of the natural grieving process. Yes, if it’s hysterical, it’s likely to be historical, but grief today is bound to trigger grief from our past and I believe it’s important to unlock the doors again if feelings are pushing against them, crying to get out. I let them out, and it seemed to be the right thing to do.
But thinking about death, loss, the life cycle and what we leave behind has got me musing on motherhood again, despite my decision to call off the search for a partner and father for my prospective children. Don’t worry. I’m not going to muse for too long – I’ve got a life to lead – but it’s inevitable that these thoughts would come back.
Nor is the article I’m in the middle of writing and researching helping to keep the motherhood thoughts at bay. Speaking to women about the biological clock, their anxieties around whether they’ll have children or their acceptance that they won’t (I’m still looking for anecdotes) has brought it all back. I even had a browse on an Internet dating site – in the interests of research, of course – and was amazed at all the seemingly pleasant, apparently functional, potential dates out there. So my search is still off – but I’m not saying for how long!
And finally, I would have put a photo of my dear old Grandad here but in deference to his private nature, I’ve chosen a picture of a setting sun off the coast of Cyprus instead. It doesn’t have any particular relevance to his life – except perhaps for the fact that he loved swimming – I just liked the photograph and what it represents.