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Katy Louise writes about health, wealth, happiness and relationships, and the spiritual insights she gains along her path. She is currently editor of Top Sante magazine (www.topsante.co.uk). Prior to that she was editor of Bodyfit magazine (now Your Fitness www.yourfitnesstoday.com) and the launch editor of Soul&Spirit magazine (www.soulandspiritmagazine.com). Katy is also a certified Fitsteps and STOTT Pilates instructor. She is the go-to girl for all matters relating to health, wellbeing and spirituality.

Saturday, 23 January 2016

RIP Grandad (still feeling connected even after death)

Even when you are expecting death and preparing for it, it still comes as a shock. I was on holiday at the end of the December, having a much-needed sunny break, but upon arrival back at Heathrow, I found out Grandad had passed away on the penultimate night of the holiday.     

He was 89 and a half – he’d wanted to get to 90 – and had moved from hospitals to dementia homes throughout 2015. This left  Gran alone in their huge, old family house that they’d shared together for half a decade. They’d celebrated their diamond wedding anniversary (65 years) that summer, although I'm not sure whether Grandad was aware of it.
I’d only recently been to visit him in the home. Although he looked frail, had grown whiskers as he was no longer able to shave, and had a huge plaster on his head from where he’d had a fall, he still looked as if he’d make 90, for sure. And although he wasn’t really able to hold a conversation – at least not one that linked in any way to what I had said or asked – he was still ‘in there’, somewhere, probably incredibly frustrated at the fact he could not get anyone to understand him. I had gone there with Gran, and she was still talking to him normally, hoping he would respond in a way that indicated he understood. When he didn't, I could see she was frustrated and upset. I just did what I’d done with Nanna six years previously, which was to chat away – as I can easily do! – but then change topic to respond to his random statements about house repairs he still needed to do, or things that weren’t working. But I could see this was too hard for my gran to do, understandably. For there was the formerly strong, capable man, who took care of all the finances, did all the driving, made all the repairs around the house and always had an opinion on things, now finding it hard to even take a sip of tea from a plastic beaker, like the ones babies use when learning to drink. We truly do go back to being helpless like newborns, but it must be so much harder the second time around, having been fully functioning adults. 
ONCE UPON A TIME: At home with Grandad, probably in 1980

Although he may have lost his ability to converse coherently, Grandad's was still in there. I think he regained some of his teenage mischievousness, as I later learned he frequently tried to ‘escape’ from the home. He would push open the fire exit, then wait for the carers to arrive only to tell them, with a glint in his eye: ‘You took your time!’ He was their favourite, apparently, even if he did cause trouble. Sometimes it would be hard for Mum and Gran to visit him, as he’d demand to be taken home and come with them to the door, then get angry when he wasn’t allowed out. 
But despite his mental state, he certainly didn’t look as if he was going to leave us when he did. It was another fall that did it. Cracked his collarbone with the impact. They rushed him to hospital where he went down hill quite rapidly, so I was told. Fortunately Gran and one of my uncles were there when he took his last breath. They both told me the room went eerily quiet and it felt surreal. Mum and her other brother arrived not long afterwards, so they could at least all grieve together, which was some small comfort.


A psychic connection?

What I now find somewhat ‘spooky’, with hindsight, is how both my grandparents had been on my mind so much during my holiday. I counted back to what I was doing on the night Grandad died; my husband and I had been dining close to the beach under a full moon that had around it an enormous halo. On our last night, the one after he’d died, I saw another halo around the moon, this time rainbow colours and smaller. During our meal, an instrumental version of Over The Rainbow came on in the background. I’ve heard this song plenty of times and not thought about Grandad, but this time I did, and recalled how I’d played the scarecrow in a school play of The Wizard of Oz, just as he’d done many years earlier for an amateur dramatics company. I also thought about how how, out of an entire catalogue of patterns, my two-year-old niece had chosen the scarecrow one for Gran to knit for her. 

But it wasn’t just that. Half way through the holiday we saw on TV that sports commentator Jimmy Hill had died. And, just before the holiday, I learned of the tragic death of a fellow colleague. I hadn’t known him personally but he’d worked on the same floor. It shocked me at the sadness his family would now be feeling at what is usually a celebratory time of year. I remember saying ‘I wonder who will be next? They do say these things go in threes.' It didn't cross my mind that it would be my beloved grandfather. 
I also kept seeing dragonflies on the beach. They’d be buzzing around when I was in a pensive mood. Once, when I was seriously into 'signs' and synchronicity, I used to think they were linked somehow to Grandad as he loved to visit Wales - the dragon being on their flag - and their home also contained lots of emblematic dragons on plates and pictures, as well as two grumpy dragon statues gracing the path outside. Were they symbolic of him connecting with me on an energetic level?

Signs from above?

On the last morning, as I was walking along the beach after breakfast, a glorious rainbow arced through the sky. Rainbows always make me smile, so of course again I began to think about Over The Rainbow, and took loads of pictures. 
 
WAY UP HIGH: The rainbow I saw on the final morning of the holiday, two days after Grandad died
On the seaplane back to the main airport a few hours later, I got to thinking about my grandparent’s house, and how I wished I was rich enough to buy it, give it the massive overhaul and update it needs and pay for a live-in carer so Gran, also 89, could continue to live there. Tears welled in my eyes, perhaps sadness at the imminent loss of perhaps THE most important place in my life, which played such a vital part of my childhood. 

NO PLACE LIKE HOME: Gran and Grandad's house, which they lived in for half a century, and which was the backdrop to so many happy memories
Most of my vivid early memories are in that house or the garden: on a swing or tree house Grandad made, eating boiled eggs he always cooked me for breakfast, or with Gran, who sewed clothes for my Sindy dolls, read stories to me in bed, and baked cookies and let me dress up in their Am Dram costumes from up in the loft. Grandad also did card games and magic. He showed me how to play solitaire, and could do that impressive thing where you cut the cards in half then fan both halves back together. 

PICK A CARD: Grandad entertaining me (middle, back) and my friends at one of my birthday parties in the 80s

I don’t know why I thought about all this as we were in the tiny aircraft, with nothing around to spark the memories and thoughts, only a vast blue ocean dotted with islands. Was I somehow tuning in to what was going on back home, I now wonder? Was I being intuitive? After all, they do say people in separate rooms, even on other sides of the world, can have psychic connections. 

A SLICE OF MAGIC: Grandad with his 'faux cake', which opened up to reveal present boxes inside


Over the Christmas break, probably sparked by the fact Gran was clearing out her entire house of 50 years’ worth of possessions, made worse by the fact neither she nor Grandad ever threw anything away, I too got into tidy mode. The very first place I began – a small drawer in the hallway – contained, hidden under old phones and camera equipment, the box Grandad once made to do the 'magic penny' trick. Why had I chosen that drawer, out of nine, to begin? Was I being directed to search there? If I hadn’t begun tidying, or had started in another room, I may never have found the box and therefore not ended up using it during the speech I gave at the funeral. I couldn't help but think he wanted me to find it...

What Katy read...
A few nights later, I started reading a book I bought ages ago called Honestly Katie John, published back in the 1930s I think. The first page was about her playing solitaire with cards – the game Grandad taught me! I’ve had that book for months, and it's one of a series of four, so I found it weird that I'd 'decided' to read that one, at that time. Was it another sign from Grandad? A way to remember him? Were any of these ‘signs’ little messages? Sceptics would say not. I don’t know, but I found it odd that in the period from my holiday to his funeral in January, I kept seeing lots of little thing that seemed related to him in some way, such as...

...Messages in movies?
I happened to catch The Wizard of Oz on TV. I know, I know, it’s on every year, but I usually miss it. I also caught the last ten minutes of Up, the Pixar animation where an old man, Mr Fredrickson, has to throw everything out of his house to get it to float, then at the end let it go. I couldn’t help but see the symbolism. Not only does the character look exactly like Grandad, and partly share a name, Fred, but he has to say goodbye to his house, which has been such a huge part of his life, in order to move on (see clip below).


 

Right at the very end he has to watch as it float away into the clouds. That set me off crying again (see below). Unfortunately this video has been edited so there are silly chipmunk clips inserted at various points, which ruins it a bit but it was the only one I could find of this scene...

 

A DIY WHIZZ: Grandad, with his wavy grey hair, square jaw and large glasses, reminded me of Mr Fredrickson from Up

I'd also popped into town a week before the funeral. One shop selling home wares and nick knacks was having a closing down sale. I went inside. It was almost empty and looked a bit sad - a bit like my grandparents house now, which every time I go there has fewer and fewer items in the run up to the impending sale. 
Inside a revolving trinket cabinet was a little guitar, which opened in half. I decided to buy it and see whether I could ask for a lock of Grandad's hair to put inside, so Gran could have it as a keepsake. I wasn't sure she'd like the idea, so was a bit nervous giving it to her after the funeral. But she loved it and was showing it to everyone. 

HE WAS THE MUSIC MAN: Grandad playing one of his many musical instruments (and me looking bashful!)
My own favourite memento will be the magic penny box, which is a work of true craftsmanship. Even when I do the trick badly people still can't work it out and wonder why the box is rattling when there is clearly no penny inside. But as I said at the end of my speech, amazingly managing not to cry for the duration: "The trick is that the penny is always there, on the inside - it's just hidden so you can't see it. And although Grandad is no longer here in person for us to see anymore, he will always be here, inside our hearts."
Oh and guess what the first song was we sang at the funeral? Not that I could sing it for the lump in my throat...





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