If anyone were to ask me who the most influential person is in my life, I would hands down tell them it was my Gran. She is the most humbling, generous and loving person I have ever, and probably will ever, know. She is 81 years old and still has her zest for life, going on the odd cruise around the world here and there and loving the very bones of all her 9 Grandchildren (and 2 great Grandchildren).
My Gran has been married and widowed twice, and has lived with her current partner and friend for the last 13 years. She met him at a ballroom dancing class and was told to take care of him as his wife had recently died at the time. He is a war veteran who served as a tanker in World War II and has the most incredible stories to tell about his young life; stories that include travelling to adventurous places, meeting people from all walks of life, but also harrowing explanations of how he had to burry his friends when they were blown to pieces right in front of him.
This man, Ken, is the biggest Grandfather figure I have ever had. My real Grandad died before I was born and my Gran’s second husband (and one true love) passed away when I was too young to remember much of our time together. After caring for 2 dying men already, my Gran called to tell me the news yesterday that Ken has been given 2 weeks to live. His bowel cancer has weakened him drastically and he is no longer eating or has the strength to get out of bed.
Within the next few days Ken is moving to a hospice where he will receive full time nursing care and can die without pain and without discomfort. As a student nurse myself, it’s a difficult experience to go through as I have cared for many dying people, but this is the first family member of my own that I will suffer a loss with in my lifetime. I’m relieved somewhat that my Gran will be a visitor in these last days rather than a full time carer, but most importantly that Ken will be well looked after 24/7. Max and I are due to go to Amsterdam in 2 weeks to visit his family again and now that we know Ken’s passing is imminent, all I feel is a deep sadness that it’s possible it could happen when we’re away and we might have to miss the funeral.
Happy memories I have from my years with Ken include him stealing my chips as a child, putting two together so that they looked like one big chip, playing football with him in the park (even when he was over 80 years old!!), spending many Christmas’s with him wearing silly hats and watching the pleasure on his face when he took a sip of his whiskey or a bite of chocolate, the fact that every year, without fail, he’d ask my family for new razor blades for his birthday, visiting him once in hospital after he’d broken his hip to find him flirting with a young nurse who very graciously told me he had a cracking personality and made her laugh, and most recently the look on his face when I made him a special birthday cake (his favourite, Victoria Sponge) for his 90th Birthday celebration.
Ken has had an incredible life and if I’m not there to celebrate it when he leaves this world, I will raise more than one toast to him from Amsterdam with his favourite drink, whiskey.