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Saturday, 12 February 2011

What it feels like not being able to say goodbye...

I was 12 when my grandad died from Cancer of the Oesophagus after having only been diagnosed a short time before. I took his death very badly and became depressed as a result. The thing that really got to me the most was the fact that I never got to say goodbye to him one last time.

With my nan and their children (my mum is the girl on the left)

Giving my mum away at her wedding-she is gorgeous!
My grandad was much more of a dad to me than a grandad. My own dad was no longer with my mum 
at a family wedding (I was the baby!)
 as they split up when I was only a young baby. I spent a lot of time during my childhood with my grandparents as my mum worked as a teacher. I loved both my Grandad and my nan a lot but I often spent hours fascinated by my grandad and all the things he did around his house and garden including planting flowers which bloomed into beautiful little ballerinas (I still call those flowers ballerinas to this day!). He also spent ages in the kitchen cooking for the family and was infamous for keeping ingredients in the cupboard which were way out of date! He never sat down, he was always up and about doing things and thinking of his next task. He spent ages with all of the kids in our family as well. I was special as I was his only grandaughter. He would call me loads of names like princess and petal-bum and would read me and my brothers and cousins bed time stories whenever we stayed at his house. He would also sing to us and had a weird collection of songs like 'baby in the bath' and 'there was an old woman who swallowed a fly'! He would make up stories and songs of his own as well.


out in the country

With my brother Daniel

on holiday somewhere hot with my nan and grandad

playing with me and my brother James

When he was diagnosed with Cancer, my Grandad seemed so strong I don't think anybody believed we would lose him. He fought it bravely, despite the fact that it came on fast and he ended up too weak to walk on his own. We took a huge family holiday to Disney World in Florida a few months before he 
On holiday in Disney
 died and I was the one who pushed him around in his wheelchair most of the time because I wanted to be with him. I remember standing in the special section for wheelchairs waiting to go into the Honey I Shrunk the Audience show with True Colours by Cyndi Lauper playing during a Kodak advertisement. Ever since, that song has reminded me of my Grandad and can bring me to tears. The holiday was amazing and something none of us will ever forget. I'm so grateful for all the memories I have with my Grandad.

Whilst my grandad was in hospital with Cancer

After that holiday, my nan and grandad went on a cruise by themselves and it was on the cruise that my grandad took a turn for the worse and they ended up coming home from it with my grandad in huge pain and not looking himself at all. He had lost so much weight and was admitted to hospital. I remember that he really didn't want to go in as he said that he wouldn't come back out. This ended up being true and is so upsetting to remember. When he was in hospital, he was given morphine and he stabalised a little. But, in the beginning of December, in the middle of the night, my mum got a phonecall from my nan and said that my grandad's nurse had said he was going to leave us very soon.

As we were living 3 hours away from London where my grandad was in hospital, we had to leave that morning. We were meant to be in school but my mum phoned from the hospital to tell them why we wouldn't be able to make it. I remember being at the hospital and seeing my grandad looking so frail. But, by the end of that day the nurses said he had improved dramatically. Deciding it was still best to stay nearby, my family went back to my nan's house in Kent and even planned a day out in London the next day. Sadly, the dramatic improvement often happens with Cancer patients just before they pass away and this happened for my grandad.

The next day my mum got a call from my nan again saying that my grandad had taken another turn for the worse and was now unable to even recognise my nan. The hospital had said that this was likely to be the end and that we needed to say goodbye. However, as I was just 12 years old, my nan and aunt said that my mum shouldn't let me see him the way he was as it would be too upsetting for me. I begged my mum to let me go but she agreed that it was for the best that I didn't remember my grandad like he was that day. Instead I had to stay with my stepdad who I didn't really get on with, and my two brothers, at my nan and grandad's house. To be fair to him, he did do his best to keep us entertained and take our minds of the fact that our grandad was very unwell. It was so weird, but at the exact time that my grandad passed away, I remember looking at the clock in his house and seeing what time it was. Soon after, my mum phoned my stepdad to let him know, and even though he wouldn't tell me, I knew that my grandad had died. I was heartbroken as we walked to the supermarket to meet my aunt. When we saw her, I was positive that he was no longer in the World.

Everyone came back to the house that night and my mum sat us down and told us the news. My little brother burst out laughing, but it was nervous laughter. He was only 6 at the time. I was crying lots and just wanted my mum. It was an awful time. I felt lost without him in the World and kept beating myself up about not being able to say goodbye, even though it wasn't my fault and I do understand that I would have been upset to have seen him how he was at the end. I did, however, go to see him in the funeral parlour where he was laid in an open coffin. I actually went in about three times as people were too upset to go in alone and I went with them. It may sound morbid, but I wanted to see him. Seeing him, even though he was no longer alive, made him still feel like he was around. The smell of the funeral parlour has stayed with me though, it was like a lime smell and way too strong. I feel I kind of said my goodbyes to him when I saw him there. I like to think that he knew I was saying goodbye.

The funeral was another way of saying goodbye, and I read a story about a grandad and his grandson and how the grandad was everywhere when he died, in the wind and the leaves and the flowers. It is a nice thought that he is still out there. My cousins and brothers and I also went to a recording studio and recorded a cover of a song called nanny and grandad, we also did a version just for our grandad with lyrics that our family had made up ourselves. We sounded awful, very out of tune, but it made everyone cry because it was just so upsetting to have lost such an amazing man. After the funeral, in the weeks following, I kept having really vivid dreams about my grandad still being with us and only being able to be heard by me. He also sent me messages in my dreams and I passed them on. I have never felt spiritual before then, but after that I went to a spiritualist church with my female relatives and we got a few message from my grandad which was really nice. I also discovered that my grandad's mobile number still worked, and just like in PS I Love You, I rang my grandad every day over and over, getting the voicemail and hearing his voice. I can still remember exactly what he said on it, even though the message is no longer working. I can still hear his voice on that message and I hope I will never forget it.

 I was diagnosed as being clinically depressed a few months after losing my grandad, and I went through a very rough patch that year at school where I spent hardly any days there. I was determined I would not let it destroy me though, after all my grandad had gone through and I refused to go on antidepressants. Instead I saw a counsellor reguarly and it really helped me to get my emotions out there and sort through things. I have become depressed since then, when pregnant with Cameron, but I know that I have an inner strength that I am sure I have inherited from my grandad.

At every milestone in my life I have wished that my grandad could have been there. When I met my first boyfriend I wondered whether my grandad would have approved, when I got engaged to him I wondered whether my grandad would have taken us seriously, when I had Cameron I longed for him to be able to meet him and I wish that one day when I get married, that he would be able to be there to see me in my big white dress. But I take comfort in the fact that he is watching over me and seeing all of these things, even if I can't see him anymore.

I miss my grandad everyday.
RIP Alan Barned, a truly lovely man.

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