Grandma was one of the Windrush generation – and one of the first in the UK to be taken by Covid-19. The kids’ grandmother – known by all as ‘Grandma’.
It was a cruel way to go, even if it was swift and maybe painless.
It’s been a month now, and we still don’t know the full details. The body hasn’t been released, and there are still no funeral arrangements. There are silent, painful information-blockages between the care home, the coroner, the local authority registry office and the funeral directors. Everyone’s being very nice, but nobody seems to be able to offer much, except regret.
Like a lot of Caribbean matriarchs, Grandma was the centre of a big extended family – a larger-than-life giver of food, warmth and eccentricity. A lot of our family life involved piling round to hers on a Sunday afternoon to eat curried goat and watch Songs of Praise. And me giving her lifts home after she’d looked after the kids. Nothing was never too much trouble. Sometimes very funny, sometimes infuriating – but never a chore.
Throughout a lifetime of working punishing shifts in the NHS, Grandma kept good but judgemental humour, all the while running a busy home. Unswervingly Baptist, she was invariably rude about my agnostic Catholicism, and wasn’t happy until she provoked me into a tetchy response.
After retirement, Grandma developed advanced dementia and was eventually looked after 24/7 in a home by care-workers, who were just like her younger self. In her right mind, she would have been horrified to realise that the care-home, where everyone was so sweet, was run by Sri-Lankan Catholics. She paid her taxes, loved England, its Royals and its people, however vile they might sometimes have been in return.
Then sudden respiratory problems, an overnight diagnosis in hospital, and dead. All within the space of a few hours. It’s almost as if it never happened. And we can’t go to the home and see for ourselves anyway.
It’s not that the virus is unfair – what’s happening across the world is unfair. But I can’t shake off this feeling of bitterness that Grandma and others like her, who gave so much, should be so easily sacrificed at the front of this vicious queue.