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On Wednesday 31 August 2005 at 1420, my Grandmother Lillian Mawer passed away at the Diana, Princess of Wales hospital in Grimsby.

Wednesday started badly. I was full of cold, snotting all over the place, had hardly slept the night before and was exhausted. I got to work and received a call from my mother shortly after. She told me that my Gran was back in hospital and had taken a turn for the worse. She said she’d keep me updated but I was concerned. There was something in her voice this time which reflected the severity of the situation.

Later, at about 10 am, she called again to tell me that they had been told Gran only had about 12 hours to live, she was dying that day. My Mum had been trying to contact my step-father in order to travel to Grimsby to see her before she died. I decided at that time that I wanted to go. One may assume that this would be a natural inclination, but as I discussed in the past, I had reservations about seeing her. I didn’t want to swap the memories of a strong, independent woman with memories of a weak old lady. However, something inside me told me I should go; that I had to go.

Suffering from a heavy cold and concerned for the state of mind of my Mother, I tracked back into the town centre and made my way to the college where Byron (step-dad) works. The phone lines were down and my Mother had been unable to contact him to get underway on the journey to Grimsby. I found Byron and then headed home, took a quick shower, threw some clothes into a bag and then got picked up to travel to Grimsby. We tried to maintain a degree of normality on the journey down to Grimsby. I have two younger brothers who accompanied us. In order to help them deal with the impending situation, we chatted idly before each falling to his or her own private thoughts.

We arrived at the hospital in Grimsby just before 2 pm and were greeted by the assembled Mawer clan who were hanging around outside the hospital looking anxious. I think that everyone was aware of what was about to happen that day, but we all tried to put on brave faces and bolster each other. I hadn’t seen these people in close to two years. I have avoided Grimsby due to the situation with my Gran. I didn’t feel strong enough to face the situation as last time I saw her she was ill and it hurt me terribly to see her weak and reliant on others.

Upon our arrival, we all headed up to the ward where more family members were waiting. We exchanged pleasantries and I find it incredible that we idly passed the time discussing careers, homes, families… Gran was in a room close by and close to death and we talked naturally about mundane things.

I went into see her lying in a bed, oxygen mask in place and numerous tubes protruding from her arms. The gentle hum of hospital machinery continued unabated in the hushed room. Hastily spoken words were uttered, but all present were overcome by the gravity of the situation. I took my place at her side and reached down to hold her hand. Her grip was weak, like that of the child, and I whispered, ‘Hello Gran’ to her causing her to turn and look at me. She couldn’t talk but one could see the recognition in her eyes. I felt overcome with emotion and fought back the tears that threatened to drop onto the pressed hospital sheets. I smiled at her, trying to convey peace to her in her final moments and squeezed her hand to let her know I was there. Family members crowded around, each sharing there goodbyes and love for this courageous, strong, loving woman. We all loved Gran. She was the Matriarch of an extensive family which stretched over four generations. I told her I loved her, leant over and kissed her cheek, then left the room to allow another family member to take my place.

This was the last time I saw her alive.

I stood outside trying my best to comfort those around me when soon a Doctor rushed passed and into the room. My Gran had passed away less than 10 minutes since I had seen her. She had died peacefully, quietly, painlessly. She died surrounded by her sons, daughters and grandchildren. Those who loved her and were loved back by her. For a brief time I felt numb, waiting whilst the Doctor confirmed she was dead. Then, after escorting some of the family to the nearby relatives room I went back into the room, alone, to say my final goodbye.

She was lying, quite still, covered to her neck in a white hospital sheet. She looked tired, but at peace. I sat beside her and held her hand once more. I told her I loved her and that I would never forget her. I told her she would be missed more than words could say by those who held her in the highest regard. I felt the tears flow as I looked at her still, lifeless body. I can’t express how much this woman meant to me and to my relatives. To many she was everything and now she was gone. I gave her hand a final squeeze and kissed her head then turned and walked from the room.

Goodbye Gran, I love you.

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