Farewell Your Majesty

Photo by Maxim Hopman on Unsplash

In 2008 I was visiting friends in Australia. I woke up one morning to a voicemail:

‘Jon, your grandad is in hospital. He’s stable, but it’s serious’.

It was the same grandad, my long time hero Pete, who I mentioned yesterday

I spent the next few hours speaking to the airline, working out how I’d get home if I needed to.

About a week later, I arrived back in the UK. Pete was stable, but I needed to visit him ASAP.

As it was evening, I did what I usually did at that time when I was feeling sad; I went out and got drunk. So drunk that I left the luggage from my 3 week trip on the London Underground. A good soul had the decency to hand it in (or more likely everyone on the train had the good sense to leave a large, unattended bag well alone).

The next morning, relieved beyond measure, I collected my bag from lost property and set off, with a splitting headache and a sense of embarrassment, to see grandad.

When I saw him, he’d deteriorated since the first voicemail. He had pneumonia and kidney failure and something else wrong with him which, all combined, made his diagnosis severe. All remnants of my hangover disappeared as I looked at him.

Someone told Pete I was there and he stared at me or past me, as if in a trance. He started talking to me, but full of pipes and drugs and missing his false teeth, I couldn’t understand a word he was saying.

I held his hand, noticing the contrast between how he looked lying on the bed, and his vice-like grip. But in reality, he was too weak to recover and, before I left, I did one of the hardest things in my life to that point, and said goodbye. A few days later he passed away.

Grandad had been my idol and a pillar of strength for our family, through turbulent times. I still miss him.

This afternoon I saw on the news that senior members of the British royal family were on their way to Balmoral to visit Queen Elizabeth, and that her doctors were ‘concerned about her health’.

Naturally it brought back memories of that couple of weeks in 2008. I thought about The Queen’s family and whether they’d had the chance to say goodbye. How they might be feeling.

The Queen has been a pillar of strength for her family through turbulent times. In a way I don’t have the words to adequately describe, she’s also been there for the rest of us.

We’ll all look to the future, but I expect many, especially her family, will miss her desperately. And quite right so.

Farewell Ma’am.

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