A Stranger Entered My Life, His Name Was Grampi

Growing up we had a pretty normal childhood, we would enjoy lots of days out and holidays and I have very fond memories of playing in our garden when our grandparents came to visit.

We were your typical family really, mum, dad and me and my twin sister as well as our cat Jessie (rest in peace sweet girl!) Then around the age of 11 or 12 I think, all of our lives changed and they would never be the same again. My mum was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

I cannot remember much about this time if I am being honest, but I do remember being in a hospital room, I think it was a consultants room. My mum wasn’t there, it was just my dad, me and my sister. I am thinking maybe mum was ill and staying in the hospital. On this day I can still recall the moment that we were told that mum had cancer my dad was obviously very upset, but he would always try to hide this, I could see him holding back so much emotion and trying to be strong for his girls.

Obviously we didn’t really understand what was going on. I think I just assumed that would mean that we would be visiting the hospital more often. But in reality it was horrendous. I remember going to school and looking at the parents of my friends and other students and wondering if their mummies had cancer. I have such amazing memories of fun times even after the diagnosis but I also have some quite terrible memories that no child should ever really see. One afternoon I heard my dad shouting I came running down the stairs and my mum was in the bathroom and my dad was shouting at me, “call an ambulance!” repeatedly. I had never called for the emergency services before and I didn’t know what to say or do. I just remember by dad saying tell them she’s haemorrhaging.

The ambulance arrived and my dad took us in the car following the ambulance. At the A&E in a very small cramped room, there was mum lying on a bed being supported to stay sitting up as she was vomiting into a box, but it wasn’t vomit, I could see blood. I can’t remember what happened after this but that alone has been etched into my memory. My mum came home and we carried on. I know she had operations but I don’t know how many, and I can’t recall how many times we were at the hospital or the cancer care centre it just became normal. 

We even spent Christmas day there once, I remember my dad and me and my twin struggling to carry bags of presents up to her room. She wanted to see us open our presents, but then we had to leave. It was sad. For some reason that I am not entirely sure of, my Grampi, my mother’s dad stopped visiting. I am not sure if he just couldn’t cope with what was happening with his only child or what really, but he left. My Grampi and my nan used to take us swimming every Sunday and I remember asking one Sunday if we were going and was told no, and we never saw him again. 

My mother passed away when she was 50 years old, myself and my twin were just 18 at the time. Looking back now I can see that it never really sank in the effect that this would have on the rest of my life. It is only now at the age of 31 that the reality has actually set in. Of just how much we have actually missed out on by not having mum with us. She missed seeing her girls marry, and the birth of her grandchildren. I see my husband and his siblings with their parents and I do feel jealousy. They go shopping together and out for meals and I often think why haven’t I got that, I have no one like that in my life and it does make me sad, and quite often it makes me feel very lonely. 

Anyway moving on years and years later and I receive a letter through my door, I open it and I see a name Henry. I know that name, that’s my Grampi! It was a letter from the council asking me to get in touch as his next of kin as he had been taken into hospital, and they would be selling his home to pay for his care. They wanted me to arrange to meet them at his home to take any personal possessions away that we would like to keep. I didn’t know how to feel at first. After talking to my husband we decided to go and I am ever so glad that we got that chance, as in his home I found photo album after photo album of my mum when she was a child and growing up into a young woman. It was beautiful, all these unseen photos of my beautiful mum I cannot describe the joy I felt at seeing and having these to keep. 

The next decision I made was to go and see him. He was still in hospital and I wasn’t sure if we would recognise him or if he would even know who we were. The nurses had said that he had fallen and he was a bit confused, but he really wasn’t. His memories lived on so strong. He looked the same but older and he seemed to recognise us and as we settled into conversation he started remembering more, and we would tell him stories and he would say yes I know which made us laugh! I decided that I wanted him to meet his grandchildren, my mum never had the chance and Henry was the last little connection that I had to my mum. The children were young and didn’t understand but the joy on my Grampi’s face was priceless, he had just met his great grandchildren, and I shall forever cherish the photo I have of them together. 

My Grampi was admitted to hospital I had had a phone call from the care home, so I went up to see him again and he was very poorly, and we knew we hadn’t much time left together. So for the next four days I visited him every day I sat with him morning till night, I couldn’t stand the thought of him having no one with him. Another family member was also there with us every day and this was such great support. On his last day I just had a feeling that this was it and that he would be going today, I held his hand and he slowly slipped away I burst into tears. It was inevitable but still a shock and also I felt a bit of relief as it was truly awful to see him the way that he was and feeling so helpless towards him. 

So in one year I had gained a grandfather and lost a friend, I had met this man and now I was planning his funeral. It really was a surreal time in my life but one that I will always be grateful for having the opportunity to be with him again. 

Life is so short and not everyone has the opportunity to grow old so cherish every moment and everyone you have in your life as you never know when how or why they might not be there anymore.