I want to write in the loving memory of the strongest woman I ever knew, my grandmother.
I did not know her, of course, for most of her life. But surely she had to be strong as a young woman, becoming the wife of a sailor and raising two daughters.
My granny as we would call her, was in my youth a person that covered us with love and care, when we would spend holidays at our grandparents. We would have fun, play games, and she would sing us lullabies at night. But in a soft and subtle way she educated us as well. By having us take part in daily chores, showing us, boys and girls alike, how to knit or sew, I realise now she raised us to believe that in the household there is no difference between man and woman, something I would come to know is not so common.
Of course that was the way she lived with my grandfather – she would make the soup, but he would peel the vegetables! They live on in my memory as a good couple, a good man and a strong woman, in a relationship of friendship, love and respect all through their old age.
A strong woman she had to be, as life did not spare her any hardship. She had to live through the loss of an adult child, and the later loss of the love of her life, my grandfather. She grieved, with restraint, but always would soldier on. As a stroke would later leave her vision and movement badly damaged, she worked through physical therapy and argued all she could so that she would be allowed to stay in her family home. And she managed to do just that, to the very end of her life, with the help of my mother.
This strength and fortitude is what inspires me the most, and will inspire me for many years to come. I know it came in part from her faith, but she would not talk much about religion. She just had that living strength. The strength, whatever happens, to keep going and do the right thing. To the very end, she did her physio exercises every day. To the very end, always elegant, she would make a point of dressing well on Sundays, of putting gloves on when she was going out. To the very end, she made sure to eat well, and enjoyed good food – shucking her own oysters open when my grandpa wasn’t there to do it anymore.
To the very end, she tried to impart that strength onto us, as we moved far away, asking us on the phone if we were having hobbies, if we were exercising, if we were eating well. I can remember her giving me tips about cooking for one person, a problem that I encountered as a student, and she as a widow. She cared about where our lives where headed, and always encouraged us to do good.
And always she retained this warm character, this ability to simply enjoy life, ready to laugh at a joke, have a good meal with the family, and a glass of wine, or go for a walk by the sea, where the sound of the waves appeased her, she said. She had quite an appetite, and an appetite for life itself.
She was a good, strong woman of incredible character, that did good to all the people that crossed her way. She left us this year, at the end of a full life. I admire her, I love her, and I will miss her every day of my life.