Today is the 60th Anniversary of the death of my maternal Grandmother, Elizabeth Mary (Murray, Evan) Allan, but it’s more than that. It’s about the love of a daughter for her mother and a deep sense of loss and grief, when her mum died, which never passed.
Growing up, my mum’s “Birthday Book” held great fascination. How I loved thumbing through, reading the poems about “Friendship” and asking about people whose names appeared but were a complete mystery. This is how I came to learn that mum had a brother, named Norman… although he was actually a half brother, and opened up a whole part of my Nana’s life which was previously unknown to me.
The “flyleaf” was particularly fascinating for in the hand of her Grandmother, Eliza Jane (Rowen) Murray, is the dedication which reads:
under that, in my mum’s teenage hand, is written:
“14 years” and as a mature woman she added the word “old”
It was, and still is, wonderful to see my great granmother’s writing but the stories which were prompted by this entry are the real treasures.
Often when thumbing through mum’s Birthday Book I would pause to read her writing, on the back pages, which all related to the death of her mum. I have vague memories of my Nana in a BIG bed just off from our kitchen, which is where she died. She had been very ill for many years so she, and Grandpa, came to live with us. Mum nursed, and cared for, her beloved mum until her dying day.
Interesting that this room later became named “the living room”, was where in later years the “tellie” was located and mum, dad, grandpa, my three brothers and I “lived” out our family indoor leisure time… mmmhhh… but I digress.
All I can remember of that day was being sent down the street to spend the day with Mrs Edith Love whom we named “Lovebird”. She was a dear friend of both my Nana and mum and I spent lots of happy times in her kitchen, chatting, cooking and eating. The next I remember is dad coming over to “fetch us” and my youngest bro, and I, were last in the line as we trooped back home. I kept saying “Nana’s dead, I know it!!!” Malcolm kept crying and saying, “No, she isn’t!!!”. This remembrance saddens me but, there you have it…
A few minutes later we were home, traipsed through the kitchen where the “rellies” were sitting around drinking tea and eating ??? … and on into the “living room” where we were taken to this huge “box” on stilts which I later learnt is called “a coffin“. We were then told to say “goodbye” to our Nana. My last memory of Nana is that she looked very young and the six year old me decided that, like magic, death suddenly makes you young again. Now I realise that all that time we were away, the Undertaker must have been busy at work for mum writes that her beloved Mum died at 9.30p.m… which must have been the previous night.
It wasn’t until after sitting with my daughter by my own mum’s death bed, and trying to comfort her during her dying hours, that the significance of those writings in her Birthday Book really hit home. Whilst my three brothers and sister-in-law were off making funeral arrangements, and “forgetting” to include me, I read and re-read and cried and cried again at mum’s anguish over the death of her own dear mother. She wrote, just 4 days after Nana’s death:
“Mum died 7th Jan. 1953. She passed away approx 9.30pm. Just passed away quietly in her sleep. I cannot believe she is gone forever. I miss her so – every where I look or turn I am reminded of her in so many ways. I try not to cry now, but my sorrow is so deep. I am crying inside, I do not want her back to suffer as she did in her last days but then I think of how lonely I am and then with all my heart & soul I cry out for just one more word to hear mum say my name or just to hold her hand or Kiss her dear face. Will this sorrow lesssen as time goes by or will I always feel so heavy hearted – Jan 11th 1953”
So Nana and Mum… the story is told. Trusting that you are both happy with my telling of it and are off having a “rollicking” good time with Jarren Vaughan, and “Silver”…
My mum was only 28 years old when her mum died and I was 61. Mum had four young children at the time, the youngest being only four, whilst my three were all grown up and with children of their own yet still I cry out, at night, just to feel her arms around me and to “chew the fat” one more time.
Luvya mum and still miss you more than I can even begin to say but happy that you are now re-united with your own dear mum.
Copyright © Catherine Ann Crout-Habel