My earliest memory of Nanna is sitting on her lounge room floor eating dinner and being told to eat my brussel sprouts – which I hated!
When Nanna was diagnosed with kidney failure it uprooted the whole family as we lived almost 500kms away from our capital city, Adelaide. Nanna was given kidney transplants that were unsuccessful and she was put on a kidney dialysis machine, where she ultimately spent the next 12 years of her life.
Ten years after her diagnosis, my Pa left Nanna and, unable to cope on her own, and given that nurses and dialysis machines were now available in people’s homes in my country town, my Nanna returned to be with her family.
When she returned, I was shocked at how frail and insecure Nanna looked so I would regularly visit her whilst she was on the machine to try and distract her; but her eyes would always wander toward the clock, anxious for it to be over.
One night, we were companionably watching some television when we heard an extract from The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams. Nanna sat straight in her chair and, with tears in her eyes, said ‘What a lovely poem’. It was my favourite piece and we discussed its meaning in detail.
After that, we would often sit peacefully, with the only movement being Nanna’s foot making a little dance.
When Nanna’s heart stopped without warning, the nurse revived her and she was flown to Adelaide to recover. When she returned, a piece of her had died. Her will to live had gone and two weeks later she died, peacefully, while sleeping in her favourite chair.
Reflecting on her life, and remembering her checking the clock whilst on that machine, I realised not once did I ever hear her complain. Her gift to me was her strength and love for her family, which I will always hold onto.
Today, when I’m staring at that same clock and reading ‘our’ favourite piece, I can only laugh when I see my foot dancing in time to Nanna’s in heaven.
an excerpt from THE VELVETEEN RABBIT
by Margery Williams
Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”
“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.
“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”
“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”
“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in your joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”