5 words on my cellphone screen. "Gran Burgoyne died last night"
And with that the end of a life I knew too little about.
Gran was a matriarch in a line of silent women. I see traces of her in me, the tendency to shut up, head down, don't argue and leave well alone. There's the hard work "servant" ethic that sometimes has us women bending over backwards to make everyone else's lives easier - at the expense of our own. The potential for fiery emotion - well hidden while others rage. (Except for the time she threw a bowl of oats porridge at my gramps!)
I'll never know the mystery of the porcelain dinosaurs. The first things she bought that were not absolute necessities, which took pride of place in her display cabinet. And which were put away forever when her husband commented "what did you buy those stupid things for?" No-one knows why she bought them - but she passed them on to my son when she noticed his interest in dinosaurs a few years back. Passed on with a butterflies-in-glass platter for me, another of her treasures.
Her knowledge of family history is now gone. Black and white faded photographs in an old album of people whose stories I'll never know.
I remember how she loved to sing hymns on a Friday night - and bemoaned the loss of her lilting clear voice to both medication and asbestosis. Photos of her as a young woman show a beautiful girl with pitch-black hair and sparkle in her eyes. Years of hard work on their farms creased her face, leathered her skin and lined her hands.
She was born in Kuruman. She had Irish roots. She lived in Edenvale. She helped build a number of houses from the ground up and made them homes.
She worked hard. She raised prize-winning Jack Russel terriers and cared for an assortment of other farm mutts. She cooked and cleaned and worked with the animals. She raised 4 children, and buried one stillborn baby boy. She lost another child when my mother died. She saw a son move to the USA, a daughter become a single mom and then find a life-mate in her 40's, and was cared for by her baby - the "laatlammetjie" aunt who has kept the farm running.
She knew how to laugh - a deep chortle when something was especially funny.
The last years have seen her health deteriorate. She took a fall that broke a hip - another that broke an arm. She would walk outdoors to the aviaries when she could, sit in the sunshine under the mulberry trees, or keep to her room with her thoughts and her books. Her room was her sanctuary, filled with the things she loved.
How does one fit a whole life into a blog post? One doesn't. She was Gran. I bear traces of her genetics and personality, share her outlook on life in many ways, and admire what she accomplished.
She may have filled a very quiet spot in this world, but it's now empty and we will miss her dearly.