I'm sharing a poem I wrote after my Gran's death many years ago as the best way for me to sum up how she was and how she inspired me. It was read at her funeral by my Uncle.
I always looked forward to visiting Ginty and Pop - first in Luxembourg (home of exotic croissant breakfasts on their city balcony, sugared almonds from an elderly neighbour, and trips to ride artificial horses through the woods in the eccentric Bettembourg Park), on my first ever parent-free trip to Canada with my brother for Christmas (frozen lakes, ice-skating on puddles in moon-boots, a crazy number of TV channels and quiz-shows relished in a tiny doily-laden room with Grancy, my Great-Gran), and then back home on the Isle of Arran (sunset-chasing of course, endless shark-spotting though we never saw one, steamy tearooms for cake on wet miserable days, bacon sandwiches, a warm fire and word-games after a long hike).
Ginty worked as a translator during the war, fluent in French and German. My mum has passed on a collection of war-time letters from Ginty's first love who was killed, a cousin of Pop who she eventually married. I haven't been able to bring myself to read the letters yet.
Somehow Ginty seemed to fit wherever she lived, supporting her local community, a hub of social activities like the regular French Club for wine and conversation, or an Easter egg hunt in her huge garden overlooking the sea. As she grew older and less agile, she remained fascinated by what was going on in the world outside her cottage - she loved to hear about the music we were listening to and the 'talent' we were chasing at the Island's 'Shiski Diski'. I have an abiding memory of dancing together in a hug in her front room to Sorry by Tracy Chapman. Her world was small but her mind was wide and I loved hanging out with her. She inspired me to stay open to others' experiences, to treasure the magic of small moments and good company, and to eat cake when it rains.
For some time now
she's found it hard to hold the wheel
her bony fingers like bunched petals
closed to the falling night.
Today we've basked in the sun
but now it stoops to blind us through the windscreen as we race towards the sea.
We chase sunsets like others chase tornadoes
clasped in the palm of the moment.
The car brakes, spitting up stones.
We've found our spot and are still.
Beyond, the hills.
Seagulls circle, calling in the hovering sun.
She says "Who needs strong legs when you have the whole sky?"
takes my hand and we fold a silhouette.
Birds settle over rock pools and hold their breath with us
as the sun slips beyond the hills.
Now red clouds reach clenched hands towards us and watch themselves
slowly open in the mirror of the sea.
The birds have flown
replaced in the air by a chill.
I find I'm alone and close my eyes.
Only to find the sun imprinted on my lids, reminding me.
To chase again tomorrow.