The value of an extended season

The value of an extended season
Photo Credit: Jasmine Lee-Archer

Hi everyone. I know it’s been 15 days since my last post, so the last 8 days you must have all been worried that I am not ok, but things are ok. We have just completed the end of a beautiful season. Let me tell you the story.

My wife, for the purposes of this story, let’s call her Jasmine (for those who know her this should be easy to remember because that is her name), has had a long and wonderful relationship with her Grandmother Beryl. This was not without challenge because for most of her life she lived 16,000 miles away. But something like that could not stop a determined Jasmine. Often Jasmine would visit as a child, travelling for 24 hours to England from Australia with her family, and also Beryl would come to visit them in Sydney for 3 months at a time. She did not waste any opportunity to see her and when they were not together they would write letters. Hundreds of letters sent halfway across the world, all handwritten and sent with love.

When we got married, I knew Beryl was important and I tried to support Jasmine seeing her at least every year. This became more difficult as on a trip to Sydney just before it was time to leave she became ill and ended up in hospital for 2 months. She pulled through like she always did, but she needed a nurse to escort her home. That was the last time she could travel. But Jasmine could still travel and even though we had kids and it was hard, we managed to see her every 18 months or so.

4 years ago we thought that chapter was coming to an end. She went to hospital with pneumonia and seeing she was 91 we thought this might be goodbye. Jasmine quickly boarded a plane and travelled to be by her side, joining her mother and her brother. She spent 10 days there and Beryl held on and defeated the sickness. The time they got to spend together was priceless.

The next time we got to see her was not for another 2 years, but under very different circumstances. Around 1 year after Jas got back from her trip she said to me ‘let’s move to London’. I stopped dead in my tracks, then after a very long pause whispered ‘oh no’. I had to walk off whilst she called out ‘What? What!’. The idea hit me right in my spirit, I knew right then she was right and we were starting a new journey. A full year later we flew to London, and after 14 days of being housebound due to covid quarantine rules, on my birthday I went and picked up a hire car and we drove to Blackpool. Jasmine and Beryl were reunited but this time they didn’t need to say goodbye.

Blackpool is 4 hours drive from London so we would travel up once a month and stay for a week. All of our kids love Beryl - they call her Grandie - and these trips were special. But the more we visited, the more we noticed that her home was not ideal for her anymore.

But a miracle happened when we found an assisted living place around the corner from us down in London. We asked her to give it a try and she really flourished. She made some friends, received great care, and Jasmine, the girls, and I visited her often. I set up a video calling box so a day wouldn’t go by without at least them seeing each other's faces.

Last Christmas was really special, we had planned to have her at our flat for the day, and we were joined by her daughter (Jasmine’s Mum) as well as her son in law (Jas’ Dad) and her grandson (look I know you know it’s Jas’ brother but it feels weird not to include it as I did it for the others). It almost didn’t happen with flight complications and covid but we finally got everyone there and then the lift broke. Determined to make it work I found a training video from the 80’s when hospitals didn’t have ramps and made everyone watch it and coordinated getting her up to the 2nd level. We were all together and it was truly special.

But we entered into a different season a bit over 5 weeks ago. She started to decline rapidly and we thought this might be the end. We closely monitored her, with Jasmine and her mother visiting regularly and decided it was time to ask the girls if they would like to say goodbye. This was so hard but they all chose to do it. It was beautiful watching them deal with such a heavy weight and they kissed her, told her they loved her and said goodbye. But the season wasn’t over yet as she once again managed to get back to her old self for awhile, even though still unwell. They were able to see her on facetime and got to visit 2 more times. Then the tables turned and she went back into steep decline - this time she stopped drinking and was bed-bound. Again we brought the girls in to say goodbye, we sang for her, hugged and cried. This was very tough but again beautiful. The girls and I had not planned on going to see her again, but Beryl had other plans. She held on for a handful more days, enough to get to her 95th Birthday. Jasmine spent the day with her then I came with the girls. This time was more relaxed, we looked through old photos, talked and laughed and ate a dessert in her honour. Her eyes were open and the girls got to talk normally to her, though she didn’t respond. When we left my oldest child, for the point of this story let’s call her Grace (I don’t know why I think that joke is funny), turned to me and said ‘I liked that, it was more relaxed and it felt more like goodbye’.

She was correct, the next night at the age of 95 years and 1 day, Beryl finished her season.

As I look over this time, though tired and tearful, I just can’t help but be grateful. None of what we truly get to enjoy in this life is guaranteed so when you get to experience a long and fruitful relationship like my wife experienced with her grandmother, it is a gift that should be truly cherished.

Now go hug the gifts in your life.