So, today, my granny (on my mum’s side) would’ve turned 101. But unfortunately, she left this world 26 years ago, when I was a teenager.
Cancer and mortality as part of my teenage years
Three of my grandparents died from cancer within 3 years. In other words, my first experiences with cancer weren’t as a patient when I was 28, but in a caring role at the age of 15.
Both of my grannies spend some time in our home during their treatment. I got to witness first-hand the side effects involved and what an emotional and physical rollercoaster this journey is.
It was a challenge, but it taught me so much about chronic conditions and cancer in particular. Probably one of the critical things I learned was that everybody has the right to choose how they want to deal with their disease.
Living life and choosing death on her own terms
My granny, who’s on my mind all the time but today in particular, was a very strong, resilient and confident woman. I found it so hard to accept some of the choices she made at the time. She made her end-of-life journey very much her own and chose her own path.
But it wasn’t an easy one for her family and friends to understand and accept. Although I was only 16, I somehow realised that she lived her life very much on her own terms and that she wanted to do the same thing nearing her death.
I’m also full of awe for my mum. She completely accepted and supported my granny’s decisions even though they weren’t easy for her. Because I was so young, I particularly struggled with the thought that “Granny can’t possibly love me if she chooses to leave me.” Little did I know at the time that in the not-too-far future, I’d also have to take decisions that were somewhat unconventional!
The gift of the last day
Towards the end of her life, I was gifted a very special day with my granny that will be forever imprinted in my heart. Just before she moved on, she had a few hours of incredibly lucidity, clarity and joyfulness. We spent time reminiscing, laughing, crying and just enjoying each other’s company.
At the time, I thought that a miracle had happened and that my granny would recover against all odds. Now I know that this “perking up” can be quite common for (cancer) patients who are nearing the passing of the veil. It’s a form of letting go, probably.
Invaluable lessons about choice, life and death
I’m forever grateful to my granny for teaching me such invaluable lessons about choice, but also about life and death. They have been an incredible inspiration and help on my journey where facing death has become part of me.
A few hours after us spending time together, my granny died the way she’d wished- at home, in her own bed and beside her beloved husband. My granddad told me that she had a brief struggle, upon which he took her by the hand and helped her pass over. In the middle of the night. And just stayed there with her until it was time for him to get up and make the necessary calls.
Thank you for reading.
May this story inspire you to have the strength to go your own path, even if it is not always easy for your loved ones to accept.