Gramma J

Y ddraig goch

My last remain­ing grand­moth­er died last week. It was fast; she went in her sleep the night after she’d been admit­ted to the hospital.

I deliv­ered the eulo­gy, pre­sent­ed here in edit­ed form:

Ladies, gen­tle­men, friends, and family:

We gath­er here today to mourn the loss of my Gram­ma, Jeanne Johan­neson, but more impor­tant­ly, we gath­er to cel­e­brate her life.

Jeanne Olwen Gilliam was born March 24th, 19XX. Orphaned at a young age, she was raised by her aunt, Inez King­dom, in Ten­by, Pem­brokeshire, Wales.

Dur­ing her nurse’s train­ing, Gram­ma met George Johan­neson, a sol­dier who had been wound­ed dur­ing the Sec­ond World War. They were mar­ried in Sus­sex, Eng­land, and moved to Cana­da, where they lived.

(If you don’t mind, from here on out, I’m going to call them Gram­ma and Gram­pa — I don’t recall ever call­ing them Jeanne or George in my life.)

Gram­ma was an avid gar­den­er. Mom was always impressed by–not to say a lit­tle envi­ous of–her flowerbeds, espe­cial­ly her ros­es. I remem­ber one year when Gram­ma grew a rose in such a dark pur­ple shade it might as well have been black.

She always seemed have a pet, too. At least one. She was par­tial to Siamese cats for rea­sons I don’t think I’ll ever under­stand — they seemed to like her, but I nev­er got any­thing from them but grief. She was also fond of Welsh Cor­gis — the Queen’s dogs. I remem­ber her lit­tle dog Taffy, play­ing end­less­ly with that slob­bery ball of his. I also remem­ber Rex, the first dog of hers that I can recall.

Gram­ma loved her British humour — Mon­ty Python, Fawl­ty Tow­ers, Ben­ny Hill, all the old clas­sics. My sis­ters and I shared this enjoy­ment, though my dad does­n’t. My sis­ters and I would some­times joke that maybe that par­tic­u­lar gene skipped a generation.

A lot of my mem­o­ries of Gram­ma cen­tre on the Christ­mas sea­son. I remem­ber Gram­ma’s tri­fle — such a deli­cious dessert that I even­tu­al­ly learned to make my own — and what we refer to as Gram­ma tarts, which I’m informed are real­ly “maid-of-hon­our tarts”, and the ham she’d cook. I remem­ber the Christ­mas lights she had, the ones with water in them that would bub­ble once they’d got hot enough.

Gram­ma was a fan of the Roy­al Fam­i­ly, too. Some­times it seemed like half the dec­o­ra­tions in her house were green Wedg­wood; half of what remained seemed ded­i­cat­ed to Queen Eliz­a­beth and her family.

I still have the big black-and-yel­low wool blan­ket that she bought in Wales for me when I was just a wee one. It’s great, and so-o-o‑o warm.

Jeanne Johan­neson has gone on ahead of us, at the age of XX. She will be missed. She will always be loved.