Tuesday 12 December 2017

Louise McSharry: 'Letting go of loved ones is hard'

You're supposed to let go of your loved ones when they die, but is it so bad to feel like they're still with you?

Louise McSharry
Louise McSharry
Peter Stringer

Louise McSharry

I've been sick for a few weeks, which means I have been spending a lot of quality time with my couch. It's not ideal, but the cooling temperatures have meant that I've been able to pull my favourite duvet out of the wardrobe and snuggle up on the sofa.

There isn't really anything special about this duvet, physically. It's big, filled with duck feathers and has a yellow cover with tiny pink embroidered flowers. It's had the same cover on it for five years. I've never washed it, which I know sounds gross, but I just can't bear to say goodbye to its scent.

This duvet was my granny's, you see. I think some people might find it creepy that I'm attached to a blanket which technically belongs to a dead woman, but the thing is, she isn't really dead to me.

In life, my granny was alive. She was never an old lady. She worked as a physio until she was 66, walking to and from work and everywhere else she needed to go because she refused to drive. She loved rugby, and considered Peter Stringer her own 'precious boy'. She sat in 'her chair' in my parents house and shouted at the telly during matches, angry at whatever coach hadn't yet decided that Stringer should grace the pitch and saying, 'There's my wee boy!' as soon as he strode on.

Granny was known as 'granny' to everyone in my family, and lots of those outside of it, from the time of my birth. She was so vibrant, you see, that it seemed hilarious that she was a grandmother. She took the slaggings on the chin, because she could damned well dish it out, and had a twinkle in her eye like no one else.

I was 20 in 2002 when Ireland were in the World Cup finals in Korea and Japan, and enjoying lots of late nights out. In my granny's opinion, this was no excuse to miss a match, so one Saturday morning at 7am she stormed into my room and ripped the blankets off me, shouting that it was time to get up and 'support my country'. I was naked, having fallen into bed about 45 minutes previously. She was wearing a green, white and orange afro wig. I was terrified; she was hysterical with laughter. I was down watching the match within five minutes.

Granny's health problems began when she retired, or at least that 's how it goes in my head. She injured her back, which resulted in surgery, which resulted in infection and eventually, at 75, she was reaching the end of her life. She had a stroke, which left her unable to speak (a fate worse than death for any McSharry). My aunt and I sat with her one day, chatting to pass the time, regaling her with 'hilarious' stories, just hoping to get a laugh from her, which we did. Even then, in a shared hospital ward, having lost her ability to communicate, she was game for a laugh.

Not long after that things deteriorated even more. For the first time, she looked like a sick person. It was hard to deny what was going on. I was due to go to Ibiza on holiday the week that things got really bad, and gathered in the hospital, my aunts and uncles told me I had to go. I had to go on holiday and really enjoy myself because it's what she would have wanted, and I had to enjoy myself for all of them.

I went. I had a ball. While I was there, I met the man I'm engaged to now. I'm glad I went, but while I was there my granny died, and on the day I flew home my family were together at the funeral. I don't feel guilty about missing it, although I did frantically search for an affordable flight that would get me there. But I do feel sad. I don't think it's really hit me, you see, despite the fact that she has been dead for five years. I think there is a part of me that still believes that if I called over to her house, she would be there. There's a part of me that thinks she'll be at my wedding next year. A part of me that feels like she's already met my fiance Gordon, and is on-side.

I don't know if that's a bad thing either. It means that I still feel the closeness that we shared, and her connection to my life. Is there any harm in that? It may be time, however, to wash that duvet. Or maybe I'll just leave it for another little bit.

First published in INSIDER Magazine, exclusive to Thursday's Irish Independent

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