Going hence

Last night our dear friend Elaine left this life. These last few years she's been in a growing darkness, a coming night where the light gets dimmer and the sounds less distinct. She was still good-humoured (until the last stay in hospital), and you could still make her laugh that belly chuckle of hers, but she's been losing, faster lately, finger by finger, her grip on this world. So, when it came, it was a mercy. An end of darkness. We know where she is and who she's seeing now in wondrous light.

But that doesn't make her going any easier. Death, even a merciful death, is still an enormity. It was the end of her suffering but also the end of a long, loving life.

She'd grown up near Mildura, a redhead like her Dad. She and Chris met at Bible College. They got married in 1965, and crossed the Nullabor in a Volkswagon. They had two children of their own, and fostered a dozen Aboriginal babies in their years as missionaries in the dusty West. Later they travelled the world together. She loved the castles and lakes of Europe, and she had an amazing ability to read maps and timetables, even in foreign languages, and find their way wherever they were. She was bright and quick, she had an extraordinary memory. She dreaded the loss of it. She'd seen her mother go down into that darkness and she did everything she could to avoid it. But it came in the end.

She had long, bony fingers and an everlasting pile of knitting. Until lately she did crosswords and sudoku in record time. She loved jewellry, china, collectable dolls and bric-a-brac. Anything with 'Grandma' written on it. Any kind of Royal memorabilia. She had more Andre Rieu than you would have thought possible. Apparently she was a wonderful cook, but that had gone by the time I met her. She would never say no to a cup of tea, nor to another cup of tea. She loved hymns and songs, especially the Sunday School songs she learned as a child. She had a lot of funny sayings, colloquialisms. She told us her husband, a talker, had been vaccinated with a gramophone needle. “You should be on the stage!” she’d tell him. “There’s one leaving town in half an hour.”

She had a quick temper, but she was quick too to laugh, and the first to help or give. She had a special love, that never dimmed, for her autistic granddaughter, who got her last words: "Hello darling." She was warm and brave and kind. Her whole heart was in her face.

I'll miss her terribly. But I wouldn't wish her back from where she's gone.

“If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going."