The timeless in you is aware of life's timelessness. And knows that yesterday is but today's memory and tomorrow is today's dream.
― Khalil Gibran
In the early hours of yesterday morning, May 22, my Grandmother Beryl passed over, into that most mysterious of realms, to take the hand of her beloved Clarie and rest easy in the softness of eternity. She had grown tired and slipped into a sleep from which she would not wake. After a long period of confinement to a bed that made her reminisce too frequently in her longing for company, her body and will grew weary. These times will come to all of us who are lucky enough to avoid an early grave. There is no escaping it, so I remind myself of this fact and find solace in the triumph of a life well lived, well loved and rich with nature's beauty.
When I was a child my grandparent's farm was a magical place. They lived on a few hectares, kept dairy cows, sometimes pigs, chickens, ducks, bees, a small orchard and a vegetable garden even the best of today's growers would envy. The soil there was rich and red, staining everything it made contact with. The creases in my Grandfather's hands had permanently taken on the colour of the earth - those hands that planted, milked, killed, collected, chopped, built, gathered and harvested. They were great hands, hard-working hands, the kinds of hands that tell stories.
My Grandmother had beautiful hands too. I remember her sitting in her armchair refining her nails with a file after a day of work on a small farm. My grandparents had defined roles, but they weren't as traditional as you'd think. My grandmother worked until her retirement, filling most of her working years doing a mail-run to rural properties in her district. As a child, when we were visiting on holidays, I'd often accompany her on her route. We'd pick up the mail in the post office, sort it into a long wooden sorting box, and hit the road for hours of driving through country roads and lanes. The countryside was beautiful there - lush green grass and big ghost gums and stringy barks, bunya pines and rolling hills. We'd often spot goannas on the road, sometimes echidnas or wallabies, always rosellas and flocks of noisy gallahs. Sometimes there'd be small gifts in the mailboxes for me if the recipients knew I'd be accompanying Grandma on her route that week. Usually they were handmade things or sweets and I'd think of every single one as miraculous!
Before the mail-run my Grandmother worked in the Kingaroy peanut factory. Today, the factory remains, and peanuts are still grown in the area then processed in the facility. I find it a comfort to know that some things have endured so much change in the world. Beryl was a wonderful seamstress and made clothes to a standard that you just do not see anymore. She also worked as a nurse or a nurse's assistant or some such similar role at one point in her early adulthood, but I don't really know much about that. In any case, she did indeed work and she also engaged heavily in community groups and activities throughout her whole life, joining various clubs, volunteering for the red cross and joining the local hall committee. She was a well known member of her community and valued communication and her relationships with people. She loved to gossip, which we found endlessly amusing, but her heart was generous and kind and fixed in the right place.
My Grandma rarely threw anything out. She had a big basket full or old wrapping paper from past gifts and I swear some of that paper dated back to the 50's! She'd cut the front off of old Christmas cards and reuse them, crochet yarn into something beautiful and reuse every glass jar that came into the house. She wasn't a hoarder though - there was space and a certain degree of order in the little piles of papers and things about the house. It would certainly overwhelm the modern minimalist but I found comfort in the detritus of generations and past ephemera and there was ingenuity in the way that things were repurposed. The things I remember most about my Grandma are her cheekiness, the sing song way she called out to me - 'Sheeeellll', the way she would eat stale burnt toast with the strangest combinations of foods, usually anything leftover like a bit of mashed potato, yesterdays tomato slices or some very bruised avocado. It was always a bit gross to me, but now I see that she just couldn't let anything go to waste - she had very little as a child. I remember the way she cut the beans, on a long angle with a thin knife. She would sit in her recliner in the afternoon watching a soap opera and slicing big bundles of green beans that had been picked from the garden. They were the best green beans ever and I know this for a fact because I've never had green beans as good as hers, and it makes me sad to think I'll never eat green beans like that again.
My grandmother was a wonderful cook. Full fat, butter, fresh cream, sugar and salt, and all the goodness of generous quantities made it even better. Her mulberry pie was second to none. Her rice pudding delectable. Her mashed potato unmatched. When my grandparent's had a glut of fruit in their small orchard my grandma would preserve peaches, apricots and nectarines in tall glass jars and place them in a little timber shed in their backyard for future deserts, tarts and pies. Eggs came from the chook-pen, milk, cream and butter from the cows, fruit and veg came from the garden. What they didn't grow or produce themselves they often swapped or were gifted, or bought in the local store. My grandparents were more community sufficient than self-sufficient which is probably how it should be.
Sitting here now, I am suddenly overloaded with stories and memories. There are so many wonderful stories I wish I could capture in their entirety. But like so often happens they are fleeting and fragmented, softened at the edges by the years. All I know is that Grandma, along with my Pa, was home to me. I will forever be inspired by the warmth, love, and connection to the earth that I felt in their home. I will always remember their humility and the love and attention they gave to simple things, like a hot meal shared around the kitchen table, the planting of a garden, or the morning ritual of milking a cow.
With my Grandmother's passing it feels like the end of an era. All of our grandparents are gone to another place now, and that chapter in our lives has come to a close. It's a reminder that time is forever steering us towards one certain fate and we'd do best to make the most of the years in-between that and our unlikely birth. I am mourning my grandmother's passing, sad that I no longer get to be in her presence here on earth, but I'm also appreciative of the time I got to spend with her and my Pa. They had such an impression on my formative years and their lovely, warm, homely spirits will live in my heart forever.