I can’t talk about it much yet without bursting into tears, or at least doing several hard swallows and blinks in a row, but my beloved grandmother Milly died peacefully in her sleep on Thursday evening, surrounded by loved ones and cups of tea and hymns playing on the radio.
This weekend, I’ve thought a lot about the things she taught our whole family by example. She found deep joy in simple pleasures, like spotting blackbirds in her garden or watching Anton’s yo-yo. She would often say, apropos of nothing, “Aren’t we lucky?” or “I’m very spoiled.” She leaned into everyday rituals, drinking one million cups of tea and never turning down a piece of millionaire’s shortbread. Her ease with and delight in people was obvious; I don’t think she ever interacted with a person, young or old, without calling them “Mate,” “Chap” or “Darling.” She welcomed absolutely everyone into her house with open arms.
Once, when Milly’s mind was growing foggier, my cousin and her boyfriend came to visit and stayed overnight. Over breakfast the next morning, Milly reported to my aunt: “I got up in the night, and there was a strange man in the hallway, but I thought, ‘We must know him.'” That is the perfect encapsulation of Milly — of course there would be guests in the house, of course we would know them, of course it was all well and good and as it should be. Milly was gloriously relaxed in every way, and her openness trickled down through the family.
This weekend, Alex took Toby to a Yankees game, and on the way home, he texted me this photo and a note: “Toby is so you. Getting the life story of a 70-year-old woman on the train ❤️” And, I thought to myself, yes, Toby is me, but that’s only because I am Milly.
We will miss Milly dearly, and I cannot wait to go to Cornwall to celebrate her in a couple weeks, but for now, I plan to squeeze my babies and watch the birds and eat some shortbread and feel very, very grateful.
What have you learned from your grandparents or elders? I would love to hear. xoxo
P.S. Milly reading poems in Cornwall, her lovely yellow house, and our England trips through the years.
(Top two photos by Belathee.)