The awful news that has shocked and saddened the population this week – the deaths of two famous and popular artists David Bowie and Alan Rickman, resonated with me on a personal level. Both celebrities died from cancer, something my own grandad passed away from 14 years ago when I was just twelve years old.
My granddad and I were incredibly close, he was much more like a dad to me after my mum and dad split when I was just two. My nan and grandad were retired and often looked after me and my brother, just as my own mum helps out with my children now. I have so many happy memories of sitting with my grandad reading, helping him prepare and cook the dinner- he loved nothing more than cooking for the family, and being tucked into bed at their house being read stories and hearing him sing us lullabies.
When I grew up a little more, it was often my grandad I went to when I was upset or having issues at school or home. He was someone I felt I could open my heart to without being judged, without upsetting him.
It was only soon before he died that I understood he had suffered from depression for years, following the death of his son in a car accident, and continued to suffer until his diagnosis with cancer of the oesophagus.
The cancer took him fairly quickly, we didn’t have much time to process the information. But being told he would die had the opposite effect on him than some people and it actually lifted him out of his mental illness.
He spent the last few months of his life really living his life to the fullest, going on a cruise with my nan and flying the family out to Florida where we spent an amazing time in Disneyworld, Epcot and Universal Studios. That holiday will stay with me forever. The photos are tinged with sadness though as by that point my grandad was incredibly frail and had to be pushed around the park in a wheelchair. Even at that point he refused to let it get him down and he joked about being able to skip to the front of the queues for rides.
My strongest memory from that trip was waiting to go into a ride, I think it was something like honey I shrunk the audience, and I was with my grandad in the disabled waiting area. There was a slideshow playing on a big cinema screen with Cyndi Lauper’s True Colours playing on the PA system. It was such bittersweet moment and the song still brings me to tears.
Around two months later, my wonderful grandad passed away on 12th December 2001. He was almost 69 years old, just like David Bowie and Alan Rickman. At the time, as a twelve year old, I thought it was an ok age to have made it to, now I know how incredibly short his life had been. He was a truly amazing man, someone everyone who met him instantly liked. He had a brilliant sense of humour, even if it was fairly ‘blue’, he was so helpful, friendly and kind. He would always smile and laugh with strangers on the street, in the shops, wherever he went. I truly believe the world lost an angel when he died.
I will never forget my grandad. His death hit me very hard. I first became depressed following his death. I hate that my kids will never meet him. He loved all of his grandkids and I know he would have loved to have met his great grandchildren. Through hard times in my life, I know he’s there- wherever there might be – looking down on me and hopefully being proud of how his little ‘petalbum’grew up.