My great-aunt Annie, aged 90, died yesterday. She was like a gran to me. She looked after me while my mum had her hands full learning how to balance a marriage to a man who was living the rest of his life in a wheelchair, and supporting a baby (me) while only being 18 herself. Annie was my dad's aunt, although my mum was incredibly close to her. They lived with her when they first got married and cared for her ever since. She had a very difficult life. She suffered a breakdown in her early 20s (from trauma) - resulting in a long stay in a well known mental hospital and receiving horrendous electric shock treatment. She never received the correct medication, and developed a number of mental health illnesses. Annie also had OCD, and as a child, it drove me up the wall watching her have to count to 20 before dismounting a kerb or switching off a light. She had 'bad nerves' and was always shaking, tapping, patting.
When I was about 8 or 9 years old, Annie and I attended my Sunday school prize-giving. On our way home, Annie was mugged. It was horrific. She wouldn't let go of her handbag and was trailed along the ground, while I ran home for help. Her poor legs were ripped to shreds and she moved in with us after that.
There's a lot about her life that I won't mention in this blog - many difficult, tragic events that happened to her - but I have a few good memories I want to share...
That's the tip of the ice-burg but it's enough for me now...my heart feels like it's shattered into a million pieces. Annie was very frail at the end and we knew months ago her body couldn't hold out much longer. It was a bittersweet ending - we wanted her to go quickly and peacefully and yet didn't want to have to give her up. I'm really feeling for my mum and dad at the moment. Annie was an even bigger part of their life. It wasn't easy for them having to care for an elderly, mentally ill relative on top of their own problems. They have wonderful memories of Annie at different stages of her life. The stories will flow and be shared over the next few days.
So I sit here, in the early hours of the morning, thinking about the impact this woman had on my life. I will deeply miss her.