A couple of weeks ago while I was laying with my grandmother she said to me, Tasha You have to talk for me, you have to talk for me at my funeral, I told her how difficult it would be for me and that I wouldn’t be able to because all I would do was cry, but she insisted that I tell her story.
This is the hardest thing that I have ever had to do because my Nana was truly my entire life. How do you put your whole life into a few words or where do you even start.
I’ll begin with a favourite story of hers and mine, one she wanted me to share.
My grandmother was born in the 1940s during world war 2.
She came from a line of Scottish-English settlers who married our Gilbertese ancestors, so most of her family were blonde haired, coloured eyes and most of them looked European. She was around 5 years old when the Japanese occupied Kuria, and she often shared stories of how many of those of European descent were being killed by the Japanese.
She often told me about the day when the Japanese came to their home and took her father Jack Murdoch (Jack kissed his family and went with them to the Japanese camp). On the way to the camp, he saw a Japanese man staring at him with this huge smile on his face. My great grandfather thought to himself (that’s it I’m finished, his going to take my life). You see my great grandfather Jack was a spy for the Americans and whenever the Japanese would fly over Kuria, he would alert the American’s by holding up a black board (so you can imagine why he thought his life was going to end). However, as he got closer to the man with the huge smile, he yelled, Jack! My great grandfather was surprised that he knew his name, this man was his old friend (a man who used to live in Kuria as a business owner). He had returned to Kuria as a Japanese Commander in Chief…he said to Jack “Go quickly and gather all your family and bring them to the camp” he wanted to ensure their safety during those turbulent times.
However, Jack’s younger brothers were hiding three New Zealand radio operators that the Japanese were looking for. They found one of his brothers and held him at gun point in the camp. As soon as Jack saw him, he immediately told the Japanese Commander that that was his brother and he was soon released.
My great grandfather was extremely lucky to have made friends with this Japanese man and if it wasn’t for him they wouldn’t have made it out alive and neither would my grandmother or her family.
I am going to miss that the most, laying with nana in bed, listening to her stories about her young days in Kiribati, about her first love, about how she met my grandfather, about the war and how she would go fishing with her siblings. These are the moments I will forever cherish.
I remember as a child I would pray my heart out to keep her here forever, from the age of about 8 years old I recall the nights I would cry myself to sleep asking God to never take her away from me. She would tell me at the age of 50 she prayed for the same, asking God to keep her alive till I was grown. That was how much we cared for each other. My grandmother taught me and all her grandchildren endless morals and values in life, to respect and to forgive, especially about how young girls should behave.
Like most grandmothers, she made the best home cooked meals but there were countless times we would be in the kitchen together and because of her stubbornness and my stubborn ways she’d pick on everything I cooked because she would want things made a specific way.
Growing up I stuck by her side and would scream and kick if she didn’t take me with her to all bingo and card games with her friends.
As I got older and through the busyness of my youth days, things switched and she would always want me by her side. If my grandmother could have kept me by her side her entire life, she would have. All my friends and family can account for the number of times she would call and text, looking for me of asking me ‘When are you coming home?’’…
Even though I spent the last 29 years of my life with you, it will never be enough. But I am grateful that I got to show you how determined I was to start my own little business, to take care of you and work from home and doing my ultimate best. I am so grateful for the help that I received from everyone and her friends and family for always visiting.
I didn’t want to keep this too personal, so I made sure to ask some of her grandkids to also input a few words about her too.
From her grandson Augustine in Geneva
My Nana…was a woman of as many colours as there were flowers. A character so diverse there aren’t even enough trees to describe her. A grandmother with glistening radiant eyes that change colours from time to time with the weather, but a strength within her harder than the bark of any tree… She was that one blossom that carried family forward, she was the thorn in the side of laziness, and she was the relief and happiness that came after peeling through the layers of an onion that shed so much tears. Nana, I will miss teasing and irritating the life out of you. Rest in peace my beautiful grandmother.
From her grandson Ebenezer in Paris
My grandmother was an extraordinary woman. Unconventionally, modern for a woman her age and young at heart, she was nurturing, she was strong, tough and she valued her family above all else. Other than being a devoted grandmother to an unfathomable amount of children, she was also a friend and, sometimes, even a partner in crime. She would defend the interests of her grandchildren through the toughest of adversities. She was always a safety net we knew we could fall back onto, a warm conversation when we needed someone to confide in. Always present, without fail, to celebrate our successes and life accomplishments. Our grandmother was a home to us all. Her love will be dearly missed and life, from here onward, will not be the same.
From her granddaughter Margaret in New Caledonia
Words to describe my Nana:
Strong, wise, funny and chatty. Very chatty. So very chatty that I’d often find myself woken up by her one-sided conversations with my sleeping self.
I loved talking with Nana.
Through these conversations, Nana installed in me, and many of her children, grandchildren and even great grandchildren, values in life that we all keep very closely to heart.
Through her, I saw how much a woman could be strong, intelligent and filled with love for her family.
She was truly the solid rock of our family, someone we could all turn to without fail whenever we were in need of treasured company.
Nana has passed, but her lively conversations and her endless acts of love will forever remain in my heart and that of many others.
From her grandson Winky:
When I think of Nana, I feel like there is too much be thankful for. Her life is the summation of a life of a perfect human. Not perfect as in flawless. But perfect in the sense that she went through things that a book cannot write and contain with justice. To me, she is the perfect example of what it means to live, to love, to lose, to struggle, to fight, to enjoy, to pacify, to hurt, to cry, to complain, and yet lend herself to everything she could lend herself to, and with sincerity, at least by action. I cannot think of anyone else in my life that has lived a life full of almost every part of the spectrum of the human emotion. If you didn’t know her well enough, you’d take offence to almost everything she’d say on an average day. Yet, that was her: that was Lilly – rough around smooth edges, uneducated yet wise and curious, thought-provoking and reminiscent, forever contemplating things that we’d allow to slip by our thoughts. And that’s what helped me have a small understanding of her. I knew she carried many burdens and secrets, but she always wore her heart on her sleeve. This is my nana. The nana that would call and call and call and call and make you love her, by sheer persistence. I knew she was lonely at times, but she had the most joyful heart – the most joyful. Just spend one night with her chatting till the wee hours, and in need of coffee, and you’ll know what I mean. It is said that a grandmother is a wonderful combination of warmth, kindness, laughter and love. To me, that was Nana’s garden, her soul to her grandchildren, that always kept them turning back to her. That beacon of hope, and at times, that “bacon” of hope – she loved her food and feeding us too! Each grandchild carries their own thoughts of Nana. I am just absolutely certain that they can’t deny the fact that she was a woman who we silently wish could be around forever.
this sums up the amazing woman she was to each of us.
For me, my grandmother was not only a grandmother to me, she raised me since I was only 6 months old, she was mother, my best friend, she meant more than the world to me.
Of course, she treasured me as a granddaughter but she loved all of our family equally.
I know my grandmother wanted everyone to know..How deeply she cared for everyone in her family and friends and how much she would miss them when she’s gone.
Nana, now you are resting and as time goes on I know how much I will always miss your warmth and hugs, your story telling, and your constant calling. But we will always think of you and you will always be treasured in our hearts, we will talk to you through the flowers in the sun and the rain and feel you in the wind and someday we will all be together again. ✨