Wednesday 28 May 2014

Let there be this

Portrait of Jean Morton, actress and TV presenter
My grandmother, Jean Morton, died two years ago this week. She was an actress and a television presenter, and also inspired me to write my first novel, A Sister for Margot. This is how I choose to remember her.

Dear Nana,
 It has been two years since you left us. We said goodbye one morning in May, while you were sleeping with the blankness of death chalked on your face. Sitting by your bed, I leafed through old recipe books and read your clippings out loud, in case you were still listening. In that quiet room, we breathed the same air for the last time.
Guess what? Recently you've been getting younger in my imagination. (Hurrah! How marvellous, darling!) I picture us in Ibiza again on the terrace. You have a glass of rosado in one hand and you're wearing a patterned sundress, cinched in at the waist. Your blue eyes are twinkling merrily as you recount one of your favourite anecdotes. As ever, your mimicry and comic timing are spot-on.
But I have tears in my eyes because I am not really there with you. I can see you and hear you, but I can't touch you anymore. I can't put my arm around your shoulders or kiss your cheek, warm from the sun. 
We exist, you and I, in different dimensions now. And even though you have gone, your voice - a good pitching voice - still resonates in my head, reassuring me. (I'm so proud, darling, so proud.)
I never really lost anyone before I lost you. You are a ghost of my childhood, the mentor of my womanhood. So many of my best memories bear your hallmark: Spanish sunshine and laughter.
You blazed a trail, not just for me, but for countless other women who followed in your footsteps. With your beauty and your charm, you bent the world to your will. We were proud of you too. 
In the act of remembering, I strive to keep you close. Your presence now is a whisper, more than a shout, but I hear you still.

A piece of choral music inspired me to write this post. It was called Blessing, by Susan LaBarr, and it was performed this week by the Missouri State University choir in Henley-on-Thames' St. Mary's Church and also in St. Paul's Cathedral.

In the leaving, in the letting go, let there be this to hold onto at the last; the enduring of love, the persisting of hope, the remembering of joy...

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