Last week my lovely Nan died. She would have been 92 this month and whilst we are all sad that she is gone, for the last year she was increasingly frail and had had enough of life. I take some comfort that she is now at peace.
As part of the funeral arrangements for next week, I am collecting a few anecdotes from my dad and aunties to read out which will pay homage to her strong sense of character. I thought it suddenly fitting that I pay tribute to my Nan as part of International Women’s Day which celebrates the many achievements of women throughout the world.
Nan was tough. She was determined, stoical, and sometimes fiery. She was formidable, ambitious, brave and loved to laugh. Her strong personality can be seen in just a few of these anecdotes that have been passed on to me:
- The Time She Rescued My Grandad From The Sea
My dad can remember the family going to Walton-on-The-Naze for the day. My grandad went swimming in the sea and got cramp. He got into difficulty and couldn’t make it back to the shore. My Nan ran out to rescue him fully clothed. They both thankfully made it back but ended up having a row in full view of the beach because my Nan’s watch had stopped working from where it had got wet!
- The Time She Rescued my Aunt From The Toilet
When my young aunt got locked in the toilet, rather than call the Fire Brigade, get help from a neighbour or use a ladder to climb in the window from the back garden, she proceeded to launch her own rescue mission by climbing out of an adjacent window, scaling the window ledge and climbing into the toilet window to reach her daughter.
- Surviving The Blitz
Nan grew up in Bethnal Green, East London and was there throughout the war. She survived the Blitz but only just; she was blown off her feet by a bomb blast in her street which thankfully didn’t hurt her too badly or destroy her home.
Nan had 4 children and somehow managed to balance being a mum with waitressing in silver service restaurants and later as an auxiliary nurse. She had a very strong work ethic and always wanted us all to work hard. I remember her always telling me and my sisters to “get our names down at Tesco.”
She had a wonderful outlook on life. Despite arguing and never reconciling with her mum living through the War, nursing her husband and losing one of her daughter’s to cancer she always proclaimed to have had a good life. She never complained and always told us how there were always people worse off than her. I’m hoping this is something that I can remember when things don’t always go my way in life.
International Women’s Day is about celebrating those women who have achieved something. Whilst she’s not famous, she did achieve a lot. I’d like to recognise my Nan for her amazing strength in character, for overcoming adversity and family trauma, working hard and still managing to laugh through it all.
We will miss her, but her spirit and personality will never be forgotten through the stories and anecdotes that will be passed down through the generations. She lives on in her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. We notice certain qualities and certain traits in all of us.
I hope that I can be as strong as she was for just a short time next week at her funeral and I hope that I can do justice to her character and her memory.