Today is the 1 year anniversary of the passing of my beloved Grandpa, Harry. It feels surreal that it has already been a year as I can remember the whole day like it was yesterday.
I can say, honestly, the 26th May 2011 was the worst day of my life so far. You just can’t begin to prepare yourself for something so traumatic and emotional even if you might know it is coming.
My grandpa wasn’t very well, he almost died in Florida back in November 2004 and from then he really struggled with his health. He was so strong though and for 7 years battled through and was still grandpa, still told us stories, still said ‘thing-me’ after almost every second word, still sang us songs from when he was in the war... he was always fun to be with.
In 2010 he did start getting much worse and he was finding it harder and harder to walk and do things on his own. I think, in a way, it was good that this happened as we made sure to see him so much more in those last few months – it should never be a case of you see your family more when you realise you might lose them but unfortunately that does happen and I can only say that I am so glad we had that chance to spend time with him before he passed away.
The last few times we saw him were really brilliant. I saw him about a month before with my sister and he sang us songs from when he was in Italy and told us stories I hadn’t heard before. He remembered so much and I always found that amazing that he was remembering songs and words in other languages that he hadn’t spoken since he was in his teens!
The last time I saw him was about 2 weeks before and me and Dan spent the weekend with him and grandma. He talked so much the first day we were there that by the evening he was losing his voice, he said it was the most he had spoken in ages :o) Dan had the really clever idea of secretly filming him while he was telling stories and I still have them now. I even got him telling the story of when he first met grandma! Probably one of the best things we did, filming him, and at Christmas I gave everyone of his children (my uncles and aunties) a copy of the videos so whenever they really missed him and just wanted to see him or hear his voice they could.
I think one of my biggest frustrations when my grandpa died was thinking that no one understood how hard it really was.
He was one of the best men I have ever known. A hero, a strong but really kind man who was a constant source of comfort and joy in my life.
We grew up spending every Christmas with our grandparents, every November we went to Florida with them. When my mum and dad went away we spent time with them in Gloucester. Grandma & Grandpa’s house was a second home and I always felt excited to be visiting. You get to know the smell, it is so familiar and every time you entered their house or hug one of them you just got that smell. I have two of my Grandpas shirts and I still can smell the smell of the house on them. The feeling a smell can give you is incredible, it just brings back all these feelings and memories.
On the morning my Grandpa passed I was driving into work and I remember looking at my phone and thinking ‘if my dad calls me now my grandpa has died’ – 45 minutes later I got the call from my dad. I was in the office and as soon as he told me I could not control myself. I was inconsolable and heartbroken, for me, from my dad, for my family and for my grandma.
The positives though were that Grandpa died in bed, asleep next to my grandma. Probably the way most people would hope that a love one would pass away. As a family we have all got closer and Grandpa has made us really realise that you have to make the effort to see your family, they are the people who will always be there and it is so important to not forget that.
So this blog is for my family. Today is going to be hard for every one of us, Grandpa was the head of the family. We Peake’s are a strong group, we have each other, we have love and we have our memories. Nothing will ever take away what we all, individually, felt about our Grandpa/dad. We all have our own stories to tell about him and we will never stop telling them.
I love my family, together we got through that day and every day after without him. Without you, without that support, it would have felt like a loss without any gain but at least I can say that we are closer now than we ever were before. I love you all and I am thinking of you today.
I think the reason my Grandpa’s death was so hard is because I loved him so much, the more you love the harder it will be to say goodbye. But I will never stop loving people so much because that is what makes life great. If you didn’t let yourself feel that much love for someone then what do you have? The world is a really horrible place sometimes and knowing that you have a family that you love more than anything else is the only reason to keep going. It may be harder to say goodbye when they leave you but the memories are so much stronger.
Grandpa – you remain in my heart and thoughts every day. I love you.