“Just don’t give up trying to do what you really want to do. Where there is love and inspiration, I don’t think you can go wrong.” – Ella Fitzgerald.
I was born in February 1984, a much anticipated arrival for a large Liverpool family who had waited for over 10 years for a new baby to join the gang. Life was good and as a bouncing baby I was lucky to be surrounded with family who loved and cared for me. In the august of that year the family was hit with the worst heartbreak imaginable. At 26 years old my Mum, Marion passed away from what was later discovered to be Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia, a rare blood cancer. I can only talk about this time from the stories that have been reluctantly shared with me by some of my close family members. Too difficult for some of them to even think about, let alone talk to me about. One person who would always gladly share a tale though was my dear Grandma, Elizabeth (Betty) Bray.
Lucky for me, my Grandma had super human powers. She somehow find the strength to pick herself (and the rest of the family) up and soldier on to ensure that I had the most love, support and opportunity possible despite the tragic circumstances that unfolded around me. She would take care of me like I was one of her own. In fact she once told me that she was picking me up from nursery school one day. As she approached the nursery, there was a little boy peering out of the window & I was sat next to him with my back to the window. She watched the little boy who was clearly waiting for his Mum’s arrival. As she got closer the little boy caught her eye and looked down to me and said “here’s your mum”, her heart sank as she watched me jump up excitedly and then look disappointed as I told him it wasn’t my mum, it was my Grandma. All she wanted in those first few years was for me to have a Mum like the other children. She was delighted when my Dad met Carol Fry and welcomed her new ‘daughter in law’ in to her family with open arms. WHAT A WOMAN.
Throughout my childhood I would spend many weekends in her house in Woolton, Liverpool. I was the first of 13 grandchildren and 8 great-grandchildren (and one more due in a few weeks). She used to tell me that when I was born she would pray every night that she would live to see me grow up and get married & have my own children. She couldn’t believe her luck that she had more than 20 grandkids to enjoy. She loved us all dearly, and told each of us we are the favourite. We all know who the real favourite is though.
My love of books, cooking, music, singing and writing all comes from her. She was so proud of me for writing this blog. She would say how she didn’t know how I was doing it, but of course, it was because of her. She was the ultimate warrior, she had suffered more heartache and grief than anyone else I have ever met. Yet she never had a bad word for anyone (well, there were a few but I am sworn to secrecy about that!!) she ALWAYS had a smile upon her face, we have all been looking through photos recently and my cousin James said ‘she was just so photogenic’. She was. She was a proper Grandma, like the ones you read about in books, only better. In fact, i’ll write my own book about her one day.
When Jack was diagnosed with LCH in 2014, she told me to tell the doctors about my Mum, could it be a link? Sadly, it was just one of life’s awful and tragic coincidences. She was heartbroken but was always there at the end of the phone to let me have a cry and shout and swear. We laughed in disbelief when my Grandad passed away and Jack was given the all clear, one in, one out….and again another of life’s strange synchronicities; grandad’s funeral was held on the day Jack had his Hickman line removed. Imagine my (slight amused) disbelief when I heard that her funeral would be held in the thick of chemo week. She has taught me that all things happen for a reason and so I accept that it’s all happening as it should do and know the results we get from Monday’s scans will be positive, she will make it so.
She was tired, 88 years of heart break was quite enough and she left us on Saturday morning as I held her hand, just like she has always held mine.
What a legacy you have left, you are the biggest pain in my heart and I am so proud to have had you as my Grandma, may you rest in eternal peace and always be by my side. I will make sure my babies never forget you.
Your broken hearted favourite xxxx