One year ago, my Grandpa died on my birthday. After much deliberation over how to spend the day this year, Mum brought the family together at her property in South Gippsland. On the day of my birthday, Saturday, we had a birth/death gathering of sorts with a long lunch, wine and sweets. It sounds strange and in some ways morbid to see it written down like that, but for me, it was the most perfect, quiet and thoughtful way to spend the day.
At 3.30pm, the moment I was being born into the world 35 years ago, and the moment we held Gramps as he left us one year ago, we all wandered up to the top of the hill and looked out across the expanse before us: hills, sun, cows, trees, sky.
After Gramps died, I wanted to get something to hang on my wall to remind me of him. I hunted around for months through the depths of the internet, hunting for a big photo of the ocean, or the Prom, or the outdoors; a photo that symbolised something we both loved together which was the big wild world. I kept going back to a photo of a Great Egret that I stumbled across on instagram. After literally months of going to the website to look at this picture and finding out that Robert was a Gippsland based photographer, I emailed him. I was hoping the photo was taken somewhere in Gippsland, as Gramps lived on Phillip Island and we spent a lot of time together down there along the coast. I asked Robert where the photo was taken and instead of simply telling me the location, he wrote, I took the photo at Anderson’s Inlet, Inverloch, in South Gippsland. It was a peaceful late afternoon on a low tide, 19th May 2016.
I couldn’t quite believe that after looking at what seemed liked thousands of coastal pictures, the one I had chosen was taken the evening before my birthday, the very evening before Gramps died, at a place we visited often together. The last time we were there we sat by the sea with the girls and ate fish and chips. I wrote back a rather emotive email, and ordered a large copy of the print.
Last week I was looking for an envelope for Bird’s lunch order. I was rifling through papers and in amongst a box of life-admin debris I found a water-colour birthday card painted by Gramps, pictured above, which he had posted to me in 2004 when I was living in London. I stuck it on the wall in my bedroom after receiving it in the mail. On the back you can see old brown outlines of the sticky tape I used, around big letters which say: “LOL Gramps.” By LOL he always meant “lots of love”, however I can’t help but see the funny side of it in this context… rediscovering it the week before my birthday the year after he died.
We came home on Sunday and I did all my usual things: pottering, cooking, preparing for the week. I find myself wondering about death, about how life is possible and how someone can simply be gone, while others are still here. I overheard the girls talking the other day, the conversation went a little bit like this: I wouldn’t like to die, would you? / No way. Can we just stop talking about it? It is really a disgusting thing. / Yeah, it is disgusting. / Yeah, disgusting. I have been carrying around a sad sort of melancholy these past few days, but it has felt kind of warm and necessary. I’m moving forward into this next chapter attempting as light an attitude as I can muster, as he would have wanted. For, no matter my attempts, I will always be someone who thinks a lot. I’m convinced it isn’t always a bad thing.