In the Summer of 2014, my maternal grandmother died. Today would have been her birthday, so it seems like an appropriate time to share this, the eulogy I wrote and read at her funeral:
Josephine Bunyan, it feels very strange calling her that, was my grandmother. My nan. I’ve been asked to offer some thoughts and memories about her.
Memories like the time she went to Disneyland with me and my sister so that there would be someone to go on the rides with us. I remember going on a backwards loop the loop in a fake mine cart and her enjoying it far more than the nine-year-old me did.
Or when she named a pair of cats ‘Gin’ and ‘Tonic’.
Or more recently, like last year when I noticed the third book of the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy in her kitchen.
I have a lot of memories of my nan being sweet and kind and fun. But, she wasn’t just my grandmother, so I asked my cousins and my sister to send me some memories of theirs. A few of them got carried away so I can’t read everything I was sent. But that’s important. Because what that means is that our nan was an important part in all of our lives.
Connor, the youngest, said: “I will always remember her cuddles being really tight squeezes & when I would stop over at Nanny & Pops’ house she would always stop Pops from telling me too many silly stories at bedtime as she didn’t want me getting too excited when I should be going to sleep.”
Becky, the next youngest, said: “I remember how nanny always loved Christmas. She made everyone special, but the best by far was when we all went to Devon. We had so much fun and the food was amazing – because nanny was such a good cook! I also remember going to the woods by where they lived, we always got mucky.”
I remember that as well, a lot of my childhood memories are rooted up in those woods, chasing where nanny said there were deer or rabbits, or finding fields of bluebells and being pulled along by dogs that in my memory are huge, but only because when I used to walk them I was such a little boy.
My elder cousin, Sophie, sent me a lot of memories of that time, twenty years ago.
She says, “I remember us there every weekend as kids raiding the sweet jar, watching bed knobs and broomsticks, Mary poppins and 1000 other Disney films”. Our nan used to have this hexagonal, I think it was hexagonal, jar that she kept small chocolate bars in, and she had this huge collection of Disney films on VHS too.
Sophie said, too, that she remembers the blue slide in the garden that she got her knee stuck in that left her with a permanent scar, she remembers nan’s bread sauce, Christmas dinner, lemon meringue, lasagne, and she remembers “Having sleepovers and her making me her amazing hot chocolate and then when I went to bed she’d read me the secret garden as it was one of my favourites.”
And Sophie told me about how much love nan gave her children, Sophie’s children, our nan’s great grandkids. And she spoke about the relationship they had as adults – sharing a bottle of wine at a Sunday dinner and, I’m going to read from Sophie here, “her weekly Monday phone call 2 me as it was both of our cleaning days she called as she was taking a break so she said I had 2 as well”.
Next, I’m going to read a few of my sister, Lauren’s, memories.
“Her giving me driving lessons and taking it very seriously. If I were to ask her a question she would say I can’t answer that I’m your instructor.
“Nan making my tea on a Saturday night when I was a child. And it would always be chicken nuggets in the shape of dinosaurs.
“Her saying I was a boy when I was born. ( not really a memory but feel it needs to be told)
“Staying at the caravan and sharing a room with her. And nanny snoring VERY loudly that even with a pillow over my head I could still hear it.
“Always sending her pictures of any food I made.
“Her bring the 1st person I told when I got my job.”
And I’ve got some from Jamie, as well:
“Nan’s homemade Christmas dinner.
“Nan’s knitted jumpers.
“Playing cards at the caravan with her.
“Sneaking off at restaurants to pay everyone’s bill – saying she was going to the toilet.
“Nan’s homemade fruit cake.
“Nan shooting squirrels in the garden.”
She was someone who enjoyed a lot of things and did a lot of things.
She’d always be the first person to wish me merry Christmas or happy new year or happy birthday or Easter, not just with cards but with texts messages too.
It was my birthday on Tuesday, and it was the first time I’ve woken up without a text from my nan sending me her best wishes since, well, since I had a phone. And it made me sad.
But what makes me happy is the warmth and affection and happiness that she gave to her grandchildren, which is reflected back in the memories my cousins and my sister shared with me this week. “Nanny always made everything fun!”, Becky said, and Sophie wrote that her “list could go on” – and she followed that with two exclamation marks.
Our nan meant a lot to all of us. And though it is sad that she is gone, there are lots of happy memories left behind. She was nice, kind and good. And though I will miss her very much, I am very proud that she has been part of my life. Thank you.