My Dear Lily,
There will be many people in your life who love you and will always love you. You are surrounded by family, the people chosen by God to protect you, love you and care for you, for as long as they live. Remember that family is not only created by blood, but also by unconditional love and respect.
You may think that it will only be your parents who will love you unconditionally. Don’t forget your grandparents; you will share a special bond with them forever. This bond may sometime transcend the bond between parent and child. That connection between grandparent and child is special, because grandparents will always act on the benefit of their grandchild, even if it means foregoing the approval of the parent.
Lily, I grew up with my grandmother, until the age of eight. There are many reasons why I spent my formidable childhood years with my grandmother, and not with my parents or siblings, but that’s not something to dwell on. I want to write about the woman who raised me, as her own daughter.
My grandmother became a widow at the age of 18 (or thereabouts), with four young children and another on the way. With no real prospects for a job, she was offered to become a nanny/maid for a wealthy family in the city. The family had one daughter, but both parents worked and needed help with looking after their daughter and with the daily housework. This meant leaving her young children behind with her mother. My great grandmother was a strict, but fair woman, and she too looked after her grandchildren while their mother worked. See Lily, you come from a long line of strong women who are survivors, and were all ahead of their time. Learn from them and embrace that part of you.
Moving in with the family, my grandmother became the mother figure in the child’s life and she cared for that child like her own; sometimes treating her better than her own children, whom she visited on holidays and some weekends. When all her children had grown up and had children of their own, my mother decided to have me live with my grandmother with the wealthy family. It may seem like an odd arrangement looking back, but my childhood was a happy one because of this.
My grandmother became my mother, and my father, the person who taught me right from wrong, who helped me with my homework, who fed me and clothed me, the person who showed me what love is. My grandmother, despite her busy duties in running a household, always had time for me. Every day, she would wake up at 6.00 am in the morning, get breakfast ready for the family and have their clothes ironed and ready for work. After all that, she would wake me up, organise my morning ritual that consisted of having a bath, then breakfast, (which always consisted of oatmeal and milo), have my lunch ready and clothed, all ready for school by 8.30am. Everyday, without fail (I don’t ever remember my grandmother being sick) she would take me to school, carrying my heavy bag and wait until I was inside my classroom. Once school had finished, like clockwork and always on time, my grandmother would pick me, sometimes stopping for a treat.
I was in awe of my grandmother then, and still to this day. I am amazed at who she is and what she had accomplished, although she would think they were not worth bragging about. I can write a million and one things about how influential my grandmother has been in my life, how she has shaped my being and how she continues to do so every day. The one thing I would forever remember about my grandmother, is love.
My grandmother was the first person who taught me what it means to love, she did that by showing her love everyday, and not necessary by words. She showed it to her children, her grand children, her extended family, her friends and even to strangers. If she could give you the sun and moon, just so you can be happy, she would. That is what made that special bond between her and her grandchildren. No request was ever too small for her.
Lily, my grandmother knew who I am before I knew who I am. She knew what I was capable of, before I knew and even with my own doubts hovering my head. She loved me even though I wasn’t always the good girl she wanted and deserved. She cared for me when I was sick, even though she was tired from work. She pushed me to be better, but to also enjoy my childhood.
As years went and as I grew older, I didn’t keep in touch with her often. This was made difficult, because I lived in a different country and continent from her. As she got older and became sick, it became much more difficult to communicate with her, but I knew that love will always be there; and that is why sometimes I feel guilty for not being there as much as she was for me. But, never for a minute did I ever doubt her love for me and her wanting the best for me.
Writing and preparing the eulogy for her funeral was one of the most challenging writing tasks I have ever had to do. Because I knew that whatever I prepared I could never give justice to the life of this wonderful, selfless human being. But my dear Lily, I mustered the courage to read it, with the hopes that it made her smile above.
Lily my love, love those people who matter and spend time with them while you have the chance. Distance should not matter, language should not either. You will then look back at the memories fondly, and not feel guilty that you could have done more.
I hope one day that i will experience that special connection with my grandchild, your child and be a great grandmother, as my grandmother was to me.
With all my love,