My paternal grandfather died forty years ago, in 1974. Dad and I were the last people he recognised before slipping into a coma. It was ironic as he hadn’t been unwell, whereas my other grandfather had been seriously ill and hospitalised, but made a full recovery and lived for another seven years.
It was my first funeral, and the little chapel where we held the service before cremation was full. I sang my heart out to Abide with Me, and held my Dad’s hand throughout. It was the first time I had ever seen him cry.
I remember going back to their house for ‘refreshments’. My natural grandmothers had both died way before I was born, but Gramps was survived by his fourth spouse. I had to do a double take though as Gramps was sitting in his chair by the fire as normal. I didn’t understand, but as the tears cleared, I saw it wasn’t him, but one of his brothers. It was a long day for all of us, and other than the day of the funeral, I only went back once.
Gramps loved his garden. There were lavender and lilac bushes lining the front path and roses of so many hues by the gates, in beds on the lawn and either side of the front door. That second visit made me almost physically sick. The plants he had so lovingly tended had been ripped out, the naked gaping earth an open wound to where they had once stood in their glory. The spouse’s son couldn’t be bothered, and had destroyed them all.
Dad had been given a cutting from what Gramps had called ‘The Blue Rose’. It wasn’t blue at all, just a pale lilac, with huge velvety petals, and a scent so rich, it was like your own piece of Heaven’s garden. The cutting flourished, and in turn, cuttings were given for other gardens and us to enjoy.
So, whenever I see a lilac rose, I think of Gramps.