The night I said my final goodbye to Grandad, 5,800 km away and over a video call, I didn’t say anything particularly special or poignant.
I think, between our strangled sobs, I remarked that the light from the lamp above his head looked like a halo. Perhaps it was a coincidence. Perhaps not.
Grandad had esophageal cancer that stole his healthy appetite for food and an equally abundant desire for talking and sharing stories. At 91, with half of that time spent in the Navy, you can imagine how many stories he had to tell.
Eating and swapping life’s adventures were our favourite pastime. That, and Grandad schooling me on the ridiculousness of my latest big idea while plotting how to get it done, with a twinkle in his eye.
Since the cancer diagnosis a year and a half ago, we’ve said many goodbyes each time I visited or called, not knowing if it’ll be our last. I’ve had time to imagine my world without Grandad—no amount of time is long enough.
After the final goodbye, a week went by in slow-motion with my heart wrapped in cling film, tightly bound by my emotions. Until finally, the call came from my mum, “He’s gone. His ship came in, and he’s at peace now.”
No more meals. No more storytime. No more goodbyes.
I live in Egypt, and due to COVID-19 restrictions, I won’t get to go to the funeral service in the United Kingdom, but the family asked me to write something for the order of service. I have always best expressed my emotions through words, and as I type and tears spill out onto the keys, I find Grandad in my heart, the place where he will always be.
Here is my Ode to Grandad, Robert Arthur Jane, 1928-2020:
Grandad, remember all the playdates we had?
Like two kids in a sandbox.
When I played small, you encouraged me to play big.
We swapped tales of life and adventure;
we even shared one or two.
Together we laughed, together we cried.
Your up-for-anything attitude meant
no matter how big, small, or ridiculous the project I brought to you,
you would turn to me and say,
“Darlin’ the difficult we do immediately, the impossible takes just a little longer.”
Of course, I had to earn my place at your carpenter’s table.
You didn’t give up your tools easily,
but it made it even more rewarding when you did.
I’d show you my handiwork, on and off the table,
and you’d either say, “That’s very good,”
or, “What the bloody hell did you do that for!”
(There were no grey areas with Grandad.)
Now you’ve set sail on an adventure without me,
and for now, I cannot follow.
But I hear your words ringing in my ears,
I see your smile.
I know that our story will never end.
And I will see you again.
The impossible takes just a little longer, remember?
To anyone reading who has been unable to lay their loved ones to rest at this time, my sincerest condolences; may you find peace in your heart and know that your love will remain as a reminder of a relationship cherished.