The last week has been a difficult one for me (Karen). On Good Friday, my grandmother passed away from a heart attack not long after breaking her hip. My Gran has always been part of my life – she has lived near us for as long as I can remember. I was grateful to be able to attend her funeral via Skype, and to record a message to be read. I have felt really far away from my family – especially as my Gran only had 4 immediate family members (me, my mum and brother and my great uncle) – I have felt really aware of being away from them at this time. I thought I would post some of my reflections from my speech at the funeral. Will update you all on our travels in the next post.
To Doris Kay Bunnell – a life well lived.
For as long as I can remember, Gran has been a part of my life. Some of my earliest memories are of going to her house in Wellington, eating dry oats with brown sugar, and playing with the Lego sets that lived at her house – I had a play bathroom and Lachlan had a regular set.
When we moved to Dunedin, Gran came too, and rented a house that had a spa bath – we used to love visiting Gran, having a spa and playing “Money-go-round” (like Monopoly for kids). When I was growing up, Gran and I had lots of conflict – our two strong personalities didn’t always mesh well together, and led to some “interesting” moments – like when she chased me around the house when I was 10, until a moment of un-coordination led to me tripping – and being smacked while on the ground. When I was sixteen I managed to annoy her so much when she was picking me up from a friend’s house in the country that she made me get out of the car and walk back to town.
In my second year at university, I was assigned the task of interviewing a woman I admired, and I chose my grandmother. I think that in sitting with her and learning more about her interesting and varied life, I began to understand and respect her more. As an adult, I enjoyed an increasingly good relationship with Gran, and was able to see more and more of myself in her, and appreciate her strength and her interesting qualities.
One of the qualities that I have inherited from my grandmother is my love of finding a bargain. I always enjoyed telling Gran about good deals I found, second hand purchases that I made, and ways that I saved money. She in turn was always looking for bargain and how to use money wisely. In January I was telling Gran about the joke that we had recently played on my brother-in-law – we had found new and nearly new items at the local dump and had wrapped them up and given them to him as “Christmas” gifts. I was saying how I couldn’t believe the things that we had found when Gran pointed to a beautiful picture frame hanging on the wall and informed me that she had found that at the dump in America!
One of the things which I admired most in Gran was her generosity. Gran put both Lachlan and me through university, as well as gifting each of us with money so that we could buy houses. Without her assistance, Reuben and I would have found it much more difficult to buy a house in Auckland. We are so grateful to her for her help and her interest in our home, and are trying to also be generous in our lives.
I also admired Gran’s tenacity and stubbornness – some people would say that I too have inherited some of this! Reuben and I found Gran the day of her stroke a year and a half ago. Despite us finding her on the floor unable to move, she was adamant that if we just helped her up, she would be fine. Needless to say, we called an ambulance rather than helping her up! In hospital, the doctors told us that she would probably not walk again. A little over a year later, I was thrilled to see her walk down the hallway, using a walker. She was so happy to have proved the doctors wrong and to be able to do this. It would have been easy for her to give up and accept the prognosis, but she was determined to learn to walk again.
Gran was fiercely independent, and was always looking for new opportunities. I was so impressed by her learning to use the computer and the internet – at the time, she was the only older person that I knew who had learned how to send emails!
I so enjoyed getting to know Gran as an adult. It was wonderful to have her attend our wedding – she looked so beautiful in her stunning hat and outfit. She was always so interested in our life together – the trips that we took (and photos from the trips), the progress on the house that she helped us to buy, and in our plans to travel the world this year.
When I saw Gran for the last time, she was looking through our photos of our trip to the South Island which she had asked me to put on her computer. I feel so lucky to have had a grandmother who was so supportive and interested in my life. I am so pleased that she was able to be part of our lives, and to know that she was able to get to know Reuben over the past few years. I am so glad to have known Gran – I loved her very much and will miss her a lot.