saying goodbye

I am sad to report that Rosie our goldfish has died. Now this isn’t that much of a surprise as she did come from the Hook a Duck stand at the fair and so her life chances were fairly slim. However we did our best by her, bought her a big tank with a filter, some plastic plants and a little rainbow to swim under if she so pleased. So we are holding on to the fact that her few short days with us were at least happy ones.

Luckily I spotted it first so the hard part was breaking the news to our little girl who had won Rosie last weekend and was very excited to have a pet all of her own. There were the expected tears and the heart breaking question of ‘Was it my fault? Did I feed her too much?’. We had to explain that we didn’t really know why Rosie had died but we think she had been happy with us and we will bury her in the garden later (and pray that the cat doesn’t dig her up).

It reminded me of how hard it was to explain death to her when my granddad passed away earlier this year. We are not religious so steered clear of talk of heaven, focusing on the fact that he had had a long and happy life with his family, that he was old and poorly and that his heart had stopped beating. It then got into a bit of a biology lesson about the heart and blood pumping round the body. As she was only three she soon forgot all of this and moved on to something else. But she does come back to it from time to time, especially if other people talk about him and asks where Great Granddad Roy is and we have to explain again. As she is a bit older now I think she understands it a little more and has asked when she will die which was a hard question to answer. I try to be as truthful as possible with her but didn’t want to say ‘I don’t know’, so focused on the fact that most people don’t die until they are very old and she had lots of years to go. I imagine there will be lots of difficult questions I will need to answer in the future.

She hasn’t yet asked if we are going to get another goldfish and if she does I am not sure what my response will be – I don’t want her to think that when something dies it can easily and quickly be replaced. And besides I didn’t want a goldfish in the first place!



Just under four months ago, my Granddad died. I think the official cause of death was pneumonia but the real cause of losing Granddad was dementia. We had slowly been losing him, his playful, jokey character, over a few years. What started out as being a bit forgetful – mixing up names, going out without a coat etc, soon turned into more dangerous territory – getting on the wrong bus and finding himself in unknown places, attacking a paramedic who was trying to help him after a fall. It got bad enough that he was a danger to himself and couldn’t live alone.

Then we were in nursing home territory, which was heartbreaking – he seemed to shrink into himself in the unfamiliar environment, would get both physically and verbally abusive, believing that everyone was out to get him. Visits were a bit like Russian roulette – you didn’t know which Granddad you would get and always hoped you would get the one that sang along to Matt Monro and wanted to look at family pictures asking again and again ‘Who’s that?’.  There were bright points like when we arrived for a visit and found him chatting up the staff members twirling her round the dining room but they were soon few and far between.

Watching my Granddad deteriorate was hard and it was just as hard watching my Dad and his sisters try to cope, always worrying whether they were doing the right thing. We were lucky in some ways as even at the end he was still Granddad. On what was to be my last visit to see Granddad in hospital he stuck his tongue out at me before I left – it was lovely that even though he probably knew he was dying that there was still a bit of his old self shining through. I like to think that even though he couldn’t tell you our names in his last days, he knew that we were family and that we loved him.

Today I did the Alzheimer’s Society’s Memory Walk in his name. I didn’t walk that far – just four miles and I didn’t do it alone – as well as many people walking in memory of others, there was my sister and two of my cousins walking alongside of me. And we were cheered on by other members of our family – the first time we had all been together since the funeral. So today was a day of celebration, a celebration of Granddad’s life and our family.

Here’s to you Granddad – you may not be with us any more but you still hold us together