Heaven is my Home

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Ma died two years ago, S was two years old. To him, a child with a fixation with numbers, she was Nana number nine… because she lived at number nine!

And he still says it…

I had to forewarn him that tomorrow, we will be going to see his Uncle M and Aunty J.

“Ohhhh, Uncle M lives at number one, Mummy!”

I also told him that we’d be going to the “big garden” (the crematorium) to put some flowers down for Nana and Granddad.

“Nana lives at number nine, Mummy!”

He hasn’t seen his Grandmother since August 2011 but in his mind, she’s still there. Nana lives at number nine. End of.

He’s never asks when he’s going to see her again.

He never asks why he hasn’t seen her for so long.

He never talks about her except to look at her picture and say, “Nana lives at number nine doesn’t she, Mama?”

I just ruffle his hair and say nothing.

How can I tell him that she’s no longer there?

How do I explain that she died, that he’ll never see her again?

How do I talk about loss and death to a child who sees the world in a literal sense and who is still only four and a half years old?

Tomorrow we will take him to the crematorium. I’ll go through the motions of cleaning the stone and arranging the flowers. I’ll read the words engraved on the plinth, “The song has ended but the melody lingers on”.

S will have no concept that what remains of his Nana (in body) is there.

My son may be autistic but even if that’s the case, it’s wrong of me to allow him to keep connecting the word Nana with the number nine- the address of a house that belongs to someone else.

So this time, when he said, “Nana lives at number nine” with a heavy heart I said, “No, Nana doesn’t live at number nine”.

Words escaped me and I reverted to the only phrase that I know, “Nana lives in Heaven with Granddad”.

S didn’t question me, he simply carried on watching Numberjacks.

I didn’t push it either, I left it at that.

I know I probably shouldn’t have used the words “big garden”. I should use the word crematorium but the truth is that I hate the word.

Crem-a-tor-ium is such a glum sounding word. Urgh!

I know I have to talk to my child in the literal terms that he understands. I mustn’t use the word “sleep” or “rest”, it must be “died” or “dead”. “Nana was very poorly and she died”…

Heaven is a concept that he will learn because he attends a faith school. While I don’t necessarily agree with some people’s concept of God and Heaven, I do believe that we go somewhere but for now he will know of Heaven- so Heaven it is.

Ma believed in Heaven so I guess she’d approve. That’s presuming she made it through the gates. Well she did swear occasionally, mainly after a couple of gins.

Of course she made it to Heaven. God himself would have had to roll the red carpet out ready for Ma’s big entrance, and it had better have been Axminster or woe betide him!

S will never remember this wonderful lady or indeed his other Grandmother. He will never really know a Grandmothers love. I feel sad for him.

Ma loved all her Grandchildren. She loved their unique personalities. She was immensely proud of each and every one…all eight of them don’t you know! We were reminded often enough, especially at Christmas when it cost her “a bloody fortune”. She threatened it often enough but we never did have to visit her in the workhouse…

S was her “sweetpea” from the day he was born.

“How’s my sweetpea today?”, she’d shrill down the phone.

“I’ll give you sweetpea, Mother…the little bugga has done my head in today!!!” I’d sob back.

She loved him because he’s different.

He will never know her but I will make sure that he knows of her along with his other deceased Grandparents who died before he was born- his paternal Grandmother and my Dad. I intend to make up a little photo album, just for him.

But for now I need to work out how to tell him, in a way that he will understand, that Nana doesn’t live at number nine anymore.

You’re alone when you come in this world
You’re alone when you go
And it doesn’t matter who you are
It doesn’t matter who you know

Randy Newman ~ Heaven is my Home

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Stop The Clocks

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Chris Evans was discussing death and planning your own funeral on his Twitter page the other day and it got me thinking about*whispers* croaking…

You know…being deceased, having departed, cashing in one’s chips, popping one’s clogs, pushing up the daises, sleeping with the fishes,  joining the choir invisible and (my personal favourite) carking it. All phrases that mean the same thing… to die or be dead. By this I mean biological death.. the one that you don’t come back from. With clinical death there’s always a chance that you can be fired back up again. Mr Sam Parnia thinks that maybe in twenty years time resuscitation could take place 12 or even 24 hours after death. That aint resuscitation…that’s resurrection! Sounds a bit iffy to me but maybe if I’m still here in 20 years, I might come round to the idea.

I haven’t written down my wishes for when I die, I keep meaning to but it’s not the jolliest of subjects is it-Death? It tends to be a “Oooh lets talk about something else yer morbid bugga”. I know that I said words to this effect every time Ma reminded me where ‘the info that you will need should I die tin’ was. I’d tut and say “Shurrup Ma, don’t be so morbid… have another gin!”

But opening that old tin and reading through her wishes helped us immensely. It was one burden less to bear and I want to do that for my children.

My early menopause has made me think a lot about death. I know that sounds silly, the menopause is a natural part of every woman’s life after all, but the menopause typically occurs during the late 40’s and early 50’s, I am 43. That sucks a bit to be honest but I’m alive, always a plus. Natural stage of life it may well be, but the menopause brings with it some serious long term risks such as osteoporosis and heart disease. Oestrogen helps to maintain healthy levels of cholesterol, but during the menopause levels of oestrogen fall and so the risk to the heart increases. Of course there are steps that I can take to minimise the effects, (and I will take them), but psychologically it’s a different matter. I have changed quite dramatically in the space of four years and, for the first time in my life, I am having to acknowledge, (albeit grudgingly), my own mortality. It waves at me in the mirror cooing “Yoo-hoo dearie, tick tock”.

And I think “Shiiiiiiiiiit!”

How did this happen? One minute I’m snogging Adam Ant on my bedroom wall and stressing over what colour nail varnish to wear and the next…WALLOP!. Hormones have done an Elvis and left the building.

The night that I experienced the mofo of all panic attacks, (and thought I was dying), I remember thinking that I hadn’t written my wishes down and couldn’t possibly die without my family knowing how much I love them, (and which Duran Duran track to play at my funeral). So one of these days I will sit down with a glass of wine and I will write it all down and I will sort out a will and can I possibly get any more wills into this sentence?

I’ll gently weep at the thought of my demise and wonder if anyone will turn up to see me off or will they have to drag somebody in off the street, but it won’t be easy. Death isn’t an easy subject. As a nation we don’t do death too well, we avoid it, we ignore it and we don’t think about it, but in my experience death sometimes finds us when we least expect it to. Sometimes we get a warning, sometimes there’s none. We are born and so we will die, but does it have to be such a taboo subject?

I want to have a good funeral. I’ve never been able to have parties because of my sensory issues but they won’t be a problem when I’m dead so I can flit about the gaff earwigging at what the family is saying about me, maybe chuck some peanuts at people who aren’t crying enough. I want it to be a celebration of my life, people celebrated when I came into the world, well maybe the parents and grandparents did, the bruvs were a bit gutted though…

I hope I’m here for many years yet. I want to be a pain in the arse to my kids and grow old disgracefully. I want to be a nana, I will be a cool nana. ‘Nana Cool’ they will call me. I’ll wear a hat (knitted or somat that requires a large pin in it), I’ll knit jumpers with their initials on and teach them Duran Duran songs, ( All She Wants Is for grandaughters and Wild Boys for grandsons), see I’ve got it all worked out. They will tell me how cool I am and I will buy them forbidden sweeties and smile innocently as they are dragged off kicking and screaming towards the car.

But I’ll get my plan done. It’ll be my funeral and in the words of Simon, John, Andy, Nick and Roger…it will be done ‘My Own Way’.

So how about you. Have you planned your funeral yet? Or do you think it’s too morbid a subject to contemplate?

“You’ll stay with me?’
Until the very end,’ said James.”

J K Rowling ~ Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

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