Dearest Kids,

You may not remember this one, but last week Wednesday, we all got on an airplane and went up to Brisbane to stay with your Nanna and Poppy, so we could farewell Nanna’s mummy, Great-Grandma Joan. She passed away on March 6, aged 87 years, 1 month and 15 days old.

It was Atticus’s first airplane ride and despite your Daddy’s nervousness about his ears, he travelled very well. Even slept most of the way over. We had a lot of turbulence while the plane was descending, which — after a lousy year for aviation — induced your Mummy to hold on to the armrest and Atticus in a death grip. Arddun, however, thought it was tremendous fun – rather like a $260 kiddy ride – and laughed and laughed the entire way down.

We had lots of evenings with family, where Arddun got reacquainted with her cousin Evie who is now able to run around with her.

Atticus, meanwhile, made some new friends on his sister’s old playmat. And sometimes, he enjoyed making friends with his Poppy, too.

I don’t know if you remember your Great-Grandma Joan, Arddun. But you certainly were remembered by her. You were her first great-grandchild, which was kind of a big deal. I remember when you first visited her. Typically, you didn’t like sitting on anyone’s lap for very long (with the possible exception of your Daddy’s and your Poppy’s), and I remember you wriggling and squirming within 30 seconds of meeting your Great-Grandma.

“She doesn’t like me,” Great-Grandma Joan thought aloud, as you pushed first her then Nanna away with your fat little hands.

“No, no…” I tried to explain. “She just wants to get on the floor so she can explore.”

Nan, Great-Grandma Joan and Arddun
Nan and Great-Grandma Joan

She sent you a little something every Christmas. And she always had your picture in her little flat, updated lovingly by your Nanna and Grand-Uncle Martin as you got older and lankier. The last time we came to visit her in her flat, she marvelled at how strong and solid your legs were.

And then Atticus came along, and she heard all about you too, Little Man. That was one of the sad things about coming to say goodbye. It was a reminder that she didn’t get to meet her first great-grandson before she went away.

Your Daddy’s early recollections of your Great-Grandma include carbonated lemonade and other sweet treats that were otherwise contraband at home. Because she was retired by then, she had the latest electronic gadgets of the time, including a VCR. (Remind me to explain what a VCR is.) Your Nanna used to call Great-Grandma Joan to tape this cartoon and the other for your Daddy and his sisters to watch. Your Nanna was one of four children. It’s hard enough having two children, but four – and especially one with disabilities. And yet your Daddy has never seen Great-Grandma lose her temper. As long as he’d known her, she was gentle, soft, and kind. He’d never heard her raise her voice.

Your Mummy remembers a woman with small soft hands and a tender heart. Your Great-Grandma came down to Canberra for our wedding, and she participated in the tea ceremony, which moved her to a tear or two. Your Mummy remembers she kept saying, “I’m very touched!” over and over again at the end of her turn, which in turn moved her. And again, she shed a tear when Mummy’s cousin, your Aunty Celina, died in that car accident before you were born. And again, she shed another when Grandma Singapore got sick with cancer. Your Mummy remembers these things, because she remembers how much empathy Great-Grandma Joan had, and how much that empathy touched her in turn. Great-Grandma Joan was the kind of grandmother your Mummy never really had before.

At the funeral, the family had put together a wonderful eulogy. An outline, if you will, of Great-Grandma Joan’s life and the ones she touched and loved. Someday, when you’re old enough, we hope you get to read a copy of it.

We were glad we went up as a family to say goodbye, and to reconnect with others. In recent years, it feels like our close extended family is shrinking slowly. Or maybe it’s because we live in Canberra by ourselves for much of the year, because sitting with extended family at day’s end after a nice barbeque and dairy-free/gluten-free dessert felt like a luxury and a special, special comfort. Watching Arddun having a great time with her cousin Evie was a thing of joy.

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