Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Blessed is she, with a little cross to bear

My family have not been genetically blessed when it comes to our health.  We come from a long line of unfortunate disease, and the heartache that follows.  I think of this only because I have noticed a trend recently in the scents I have chosen to fill my house with and how they remind me of someone very special. 

I always had a fondness for floral fragrances, there's no surprise to that really, since I adore my garden and spend much of the warmer months doing what I can to fill it with colourful and fragrant flowers.  The soaps, candles, perfumes and even cleaning products I have purchased recently though all are strongly rose scented.  The scent that reminds me most of my late, beautiful Nan, who sadly passed away from Motor Neuron Disease in 2007.
My Nan was a really Nanny, the kind that baked when she knew company were coming, who kept little toys in the house even when her grandchildren had all grown too old to play with them, who loved to teach us how to set the table just the way Pop liked and who loved a cream cake as much as the kids she baked them for.  My Nan was strong and proud, but in a way that was only portrayed in a loving way.  She is also one of the most generous people I have ever known, taking in my young cousin at the age of 12 months when his parents could not care for him on their own. 
Nan taught me the beauty of home made.  Whether it was clothing, table linen, pottery or a simple chocolate cake.  If you made it yourself you took a pride in it larger than any bought item could bring.  My grandparent's have lived in the same home since I can remember.  It has always been filled with photographs and treasured gifts they were given by family, as well beautiful wooden furniture my Pop made in his carpentry shed.  Sitting pride of place in their formal lounge was a large display cabinet made by Pop and filled with years worth of my Nan's collectible dinnerware.  Their house was filled with the smells of freshly baked bread, pies and cakes, or a simple bouquet of home grown roses.  And my sister, cousin and I would spend many afternoons sitting at the dining table drinking tea and eating cakes off of Nan's favourite cups and saucers.
My Pop cared for my Nan at home until the very last weeks of her life.  He rebuilt their living areas to fit her wheelchair and hoist, and would not hear of moving her into hospice care or the hospital.  Days before the inevitable move to the palliative ward our families gathered at their house for afternoon tea.  Though she could no longer speak, sitting in her armchair, hair and face made up by Pop the way she always liked it, my Nan greeted each of us with a smile.  As I painted her nails she slowly scribbled something on a piece of paper and handed it to my uncle.  She'd written "She's going to be a nurse, I'm so proud."  My uncle didn't hand me this note until we were leaving later that evening.
Nan's time in hospital was short.  We all gathered by her bed and watched her sleeping as my parents spoke to doctors and nurses about how long they thought she had.  My cousin, who they'd raised, was not yet here and we were scared that he'd miss saying goodbye.  As time passed we all started talking, like we would if we were anywhere else.  Sharing stories about what was happening in our lives, keeping our Pop entertained.  It must have been hours until my cousin got there, but Nan waited.  She waited until she heard all of us together chatting away.  Sitting in the armchair at the end of her bed, I watched her chest rise and fall, and that was it.  I couldn't catch my breath, I couldn't speak.  I knew noone else had noticed yet.  I reached for her hand trying to disguise my searching for her pulse with the blanket, but she was gone and now everyone knew it.

My Nan passed away one day before I graduated from my Bachelor of Nursing degree.  Her death made me question my decision about the career I'd chosen.  Even after starting my new job I couldn't convince myself I was the right kind of person to be caring for others.  I wasn't ready to see others suffer and struggle.  I wanted to be wrapped in my own grief for a while longer and not think about it.  My Mum saw me struggling through those first months, and came to me one evening after I'd come home from a shift where one of my youngest patients had passed away.  She reminded me of how fortunate we were that we were healthy, that people loved us, and when we are unwell we'll have eachother to care for us.  She reminded me how proud Nan would be to see that even though I was dealing with my own grief, I was helping someone else's family through theirs.  If it wasn't for those words, I would not still be a nurse.  If it wasn't for the encouragement of family and the memory of my beautiful Nan, I would not have the strength to do the job that I do every day.
Recently I have been considering this question again: do I still want to work in nursing, am I supposed to be focusing my life in another direction?  Today, overwhelmingly my Nanny has overtaken my thoughts.  She may not be here to give me advice, but I feel like the memories I have of her are guiding me nonetheless.  I want to hold onto that feeling of her being proud of me.  I do love what I do, even though it exhausts me.  I LOVE that I am helping someone the way I couldn't help her.
So, if you stop by our home and wonder why it starting to smell like a little old lady has moved in, it's because she has.  She's moved into me.  And as Hubby and I go through whatever our infertility fate throws at us I will try to remember that though we are not a genetically blessed family health-wise we are strong, and that too is in the blood.  
As my Nan would say, "Blessed is she, with a little cross to bear."  


1 comment:

  1. Wow. Loved this post Tegie. She sounds like a wonderful lady! You will see her again - and what a reunion that will be! :)