Nana’s tradition, in Nana’s honor

Today was Christmas day, our second Christmas as a family of three, our first Christmas back in Australia after three years; Chris’s 41st birthday; Chris’s second birthday as a daddy. And of the wider family, it was the second Christmas without Chris’s Nana, his paternal grandma. Three years ago when we were last here, Nana was still here. And that trip in December 2019, Chris had an eerie feeling that that would be the last time he’d see Nana. Sadly, he was right. Nana had a tradition every Christmas Eve of gathering all the grandchildren at the cemetery where Appa (grandpa) is buried to honor him, then hosting everyone for a meal at her house. Now that she’s gone, the cousins are trying to continue the tradition of visiting Appa and now also Nana at the cemetery on Christmas Eve. We missed it because we had to feed Kaia dinner at the time they gathered. So instead, Chris, Ben, Kaia, and I went to the cemetery to visit Nana for the first time this morning before heading to a relative’s house for Christmas day festivities.

In past visits, the cemetery visits were happy gatherings of the cousins altogether with Nana, honoring Appa’s life. This visit, though, was sad: it was the first time the three of us (plus Kaia) were seeing Nana’s grave. The inscription looked fresh, shiny, and new. I laid down my Santa headband, which she loved, along with Kaia’s Christmas hair clip on her grave, and took a photo of her and Appa’s epitaph. We took a few photos. We stood there for a while looking at the grave site and just didn’t say anything.

Staring at her grave, I thought of all the years we came to visit and how much I admired Nana for how strong and independent she was. To think that she lived independently, out of her own will, after her husband died for 20 years, until age 90, before moving into an aged care facility was just mind boggling to me. I thought about how she appreciated all the little things in life and always expressed gratitude for the tiniest things; if all we did was just visit her, she always said how happy it made her and how grateful she was. I also thought about how I wished my own parents could have a fraction of her happiness and the tiniest smidgen of her gratitude, as well. In an ideal world, yes, I would spend more time with my parents. We’d actually do activities together and eat meals together where I wouldn’t constantly hear them criticizing me and my life choices, where they weren’t constantly criticizing my in-laws, my cousins, my aunt and uncle, my friends. They wouldn’t pick fights with me during the limited times we have together, they wouldn’t call me a bitch. They wouldn’t do all the toxic things that drive me away and then afterwards, wonder why I don’t want to rush to book my next trip to see them; or even worse, wonder why I wouldn’t want to spend a month with them and work remotely. Even though my parents are a generation behind Nana, I always thought: why can’t my own parents be a little more like her? I suppose Nana didn’t have much intergenerational trauma to pass on.

She’s passed on now, which is so sad because I always thought given Nana’s strong mind (she literally remembered the most minute details of her life and recalled them with stunning accuracy) and relatively good health that she’d live until she was 100. She lived a long, happy, full, good life. No one would debate that. But per passing is a further reminder of how the time we spend on this earth is finite. And given it is finite, we should spend time with people we love who love AND treat us well. Who wants to spend time with people who make them feel bad about themselves or make their lives miserable? The moments we spend with the ones we love — at the end of the day, that’s all that really matters, as Nana always said. All the things we love and accumulate in our homes will eventually become rubbish that will be tossed or donated, as the things we cherish won’t be cherished by those who outlive us in the same way. Nana did love things a lot; she loved a LOT of things, resulting in a lot of donating and rubbish collecting after she passed. It felt so sad to hear about that as the siblings were sorting through all her things to distribute to family members and/or donate.

At the end of our lives, we won’t be wishing we worked more hours or earned more money. We won’t regret that work trip we didn’t take or working over a holiday period to meet some stupid deadline dictated by a corporation that looks at us just as another number. We’ll have wished we had spent more time with our family and closest friends.

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