Last December was a pretty torrid time for me, as I came to grips with the loss of two family members. They were very different, but both were very special to me.
The first loss actually came in November. As the temperature dropped and the snow fell we had to say goodbye to our family dog, Cookie. We were lucky enough to begin looking after him when he was around seven years old in 2002, and then even more fortunate to get to look after him for the last eight years of his life.
That was a pretty life-changing eight years. Lorraine and I went from being newlyweds to dog owners, to a parent of a baby girl and eventually (a few months before Cookie died) parents of two girls. At each stage Cookie was a loving, loyal dog. He loved Lorraine more than anyone and he wouldn't let anyone between him and her when she went out for a walk with him. I will always honestly believe he would have died for my wife, because he completely lived for her.
His last week wasn't pleasant, starting with a trip to a vet's, an overnight stay, a pickup that seemed to offer hope but which ultimately showed the hopelessness of the situation. It gave us a few days to prepare ourselves for the inevitable, as well as give us a chance to say goodbye. Thankfully as time goes by happier memories supercede the final week, but part of me won't ever be able to forget that. Lorraine and I were there when we took him to the vet's for the last time, and for all the love and loyalty he gave us I can't regret that. He at least deserved to pass away in the company of people he loved, however hard it was for us. After he passed away the vet gave Lorraine two tissues and then passed me the rest of the box.
And yes, I still miss him.
Just a week later, as Scotland came to a standstill amid freezing weather I was unaware that I was losing my paternal grandmother. Due to the weather I was at a friend's flat and out of mobile phone battery when she passed away, and due to a number of factors I did not find out about her passing for another two days.
My Gran was an amazing woman, albeit one who sadly due to geography and family commitments I hadn't seen for five years. As the years went by I tried to make sure I called her more often, and it was always a pleasure to speak to her. Her mind never seemed to have left her, but physical ailments I hadn't seen had diminished her life somewhat.
She was consistently kind and generous. When she met Lorraine for the first time she instantly gained a place in Lorraine's affections by supplying her with a complete album of childhood photos of me. Perhaps more importantly though her opinion of my Mum never changed, regardless of whether she was married to my Dad or not. She thought the world of my Mum, and was more than happy to have her own opinions about people (I'd like to think I'm the same in that regard). She was pithy, witty and always had wonderful stories to tell, but wasn't full of self-importance and was every bit as good a listener as she was a story-teller.
It wasn't until after her death that I found out that my Gran and my Dad didn't have a particularly normal mother-son relationship. For reasons of her own choosing, my Gran never revealed that to me. I didn't reveal that he and I don't have a normal father-son relationship either, as I would have hated to have offended her. Regardless of her own feelings, she was prepared to let me make my own mind up. I wish I'd been honest with her in that regard, just for the sake of being as honest with her as I was with myself.
I miss her too, and wish I'd been there more for her, but there are things in life you can't ever change, however much you'd like to. Most of all I wish had met her Great Granddaughters, who I think she would have adored, and who she would have been adored by herself.