My first brush with mortality came at the age of three, when my Wee Gran died.

Wee Gran was actually my great-grandmother – known as “Wee Gran” purely to differentiate her from my other two grandmothers (Neither of whom was known as “Big Gran,” just FYI: I know they’d both want me to make that fact crystal-clear…). And also because she was pretty short, let’s be honest.

Wee Gran died, as I said, when I was three, and my mum gently informed me of this sad event by telling me Wee Gran had gone to live in a place called Heaven, which was filled with the most wonderful things: Wee Gran would surely love it there! To my three-year-old self, this seemed like no big deal, really: Wee Gran had “flitted,” just like some people in our street had “flitted,” and we would obviously just visit her at her new house in this “Heaven,” place, from now on.

But of course, it was not to be. No, my mum sadly informed me: we wouldn’t be able to visit Wee Gran in Heaven, unfortunately –  it was Not Allowed. There were Rules. I privately thought Heaven sounded like a bit of a bind, really, but accepted this fact without comment, and my mum was just congratulating herself on how well she’d handled the situation, when I appeared with the phone in my hand, and asked if we could call Wee Gran instead.

I was less willing to accept the idea that Heaven did not have phones. In fact, it seemed blatantly obvious to me that Heaven could not, in fact BE “heaven,” if it didn’t have all mod cons. If Wee Gran didn’t even have a phone there, after all, she presumably wouldn’t have a TV or a washing machine either, and how would Wee Gran cope without these things? Most crucially of all, with visits and phone calls Not Allowed, how would she cope without US: her people?

It seemed to me that Heaven could only be heaven if all of your people were there, and I couldn’t for the life of me understand why Wee Gran would have chosen to move somewhere so cut off from the rest of the world – somewhere she would not be able to see any of the people she loved until that mysterious time when we would all “flit” there with her, as I now learned, to my utmost surprise. Even my Uncle Jerry and Aunt Fiona, who’d moved to Canada shortly after I was born (I’m assured these two events were unrelated, by the way…), were able to call us at least once a week, and the previous year, my Gran and Grandad had gotten on a plane and flown there to see them. Wherever Heaven was, it was obviously not like Canada, then, and this struck me as a terrible shame. I made up my mind then and there that I would not be going there – and, let’s face it, if heaven does exist, I probably won’t be, now that I’ve questioned its existence, and criticised it for not having good cellphone reception, will I?

Heaven is not like Canada, though: and that sad fact has never been more apparent to me than it is right now.

Soula and Max

Terry’s mum passed peacefully away in the early hours of yesterday morning.

We were expecting this, of course, but that doesn’t make it any easier to deal with, and while we’re relieved that she’s no longer suffering – and she suffered terribly these past few months – we’re absolutely heartbroken to be without her.

Last June, when Soula was given six months to live, just three months into my pregnancy with Max, it was impossible for us not to do the maths, and worry that she’d never get to meet him. Soula, however, was one of the strongest people I’ve ever known: she was determined to meet her 7th grandchild, and have one last Christmas with her family, and she was as good as her word. We will always treasure the photos and memories we have of her, and we’ll make sure that, although he only got to meet her for a few short weeks, Max will grow up knowing this amazing woman, who was abandoned as a baby on an Athens doorstep, and who, despite never knowing her own parents, went on to build a family of her own, who were her absolute pride and joy, and reason for living.

We’ll tell him about her amazing cooking, which meant that we can’t ever eat in a Greek restaurant without saying, “Well, it was OK, but it wasn’t a patch on Soula’s pasticho…” The way she’d aways insist that you sit in THIS seat – no, not THAT seat, but THIS one, because THIS was the best seat, and Soula was never happier than when she was making other people happy: it was all that really mattered to her. We’ll tell him about her kindness and generosity, and how, despite living in Scotland for over 60 years, she never lost her Greek accent – which gave us a ton of brand new words, like “planget” (blanket), “chestadraw” (chest of drawers), and “Shona” (sauna).

We’ll tell him all of these things and more, and honestly, it won’t even come close to doing justice to the person she was, or how much we loved her, but we’ll do our best to make sure that she’ll always be a part of his life – just as she’ll always be a part of ours.

The next few days and weeks (and months and years) are going to be harder than I can even imagine right now, but Soula leaves behind her a wonderful legacy, in the shape of the family she cherished, and whose closeness and love for each other will help us all through the dark days ahead. Things will never be quite the same again for us now that she’s gone, but I know family was the most important thing in the world to Soula, and that hers will cherish her memory, and make sure she lives on in the stories and memories we’ll share of her.

Sweet dreams, Soula: we’re going to miss you so much…

  1. Oh, Amber. So sorry for your loss, and sending love and internet hugs to you and Terry. I’m so glad she was able to meet Max, though. She sounds like a wonderful woman.

  2. Rest in peace, Soula. She sounds such an inspirational woman, and one who will be missed dearly. Hugs to you, Terry and his family.

  3. I am crying for you right now, and I live half a continent away and have never met any of you. A huge hug to you and Terry and the rest of your family.

  4. So sorry for your family’s loss Amber. Soula sounded like such a special person. I’m really glad she had the chance to meet and love Max.

  5. I am so sorry for your loss. This made me cry because it reminded me so much of my own grandmother, who died a few years ago. As long as they live on in the stories and memories of those who love them, they are never truly gone. <3

  6. I’m so sorry for you and Terry and Max’s loss. My thoughts are with you and your family and I am wishing peace for you during these days and the ones to come.

  7. A very moving post and a beautiful tribute to someone who sounds like she was an extraordinary person. I’m glad that she got to meet Max, albeit so briefly. So, so sorry for your loss. X

  8. I’m so sorry to hear of your loss, Amber, and sympathies to Terry and the rest of your family as well. Even though it wasn’t a surprise doesn’t make it any easier to deal with. Thinking of you and sending warm thoughts and internet hugs at this difficult time. I’m glad she was able to meet Max, however briefly. What a beautiful tribute you wrote, it’s clear she had a huge impact on your lives and leaves a strong legacy of family.

  9. My sincere condolences go to Terry and you, Amber…… and all the rest of Terry’s family. Soula will be a sore miss. I am so glad she got to meet your beautiful Max. What a lot of mixed emotions you must both be having right now. Sending lots of love xxx

  10. Oh, my love. I made it to the second paragraph before I realised what was coming, and I’ve been crying ever since.

    I’m so, so sorry for your loss. If this beautiful tribute is anything to go by, I know wee Max will be growing up with a wonderful legacy to remember.


  11. Big big hugs to you and the family! Sad and beuatiful at the same time. So glad she got to meet Max! Death would probably have no chance in arguing that point with her! Beautifully written by you and I’m sure alot of her lives in your husband so Max will get to know her through him! Again, alot of hugs and strength!

  12. What a beautiful eulogy, and wonderful photo for you all to share in later years, especially for Max. I am so sorry you have lost Soula. Her great love and joy in life shines in all your memories and in her face as she smiles down at Max.

  13. I can only echo everyone’s sympathy. In just a few words you painted a very rich picture of what sounds like quite a wonderful person to have known. I’m so glad she got to meet max, even if only for a short time.

  14. I am so sorry. My own father is dying right now, just can’t deal with it. We need our parents. I’m so sorry, I feel your pain.

  15. I am so sorry for your loss, my thoughts are with you, Terry and the rest of your family at this very sad time.
    You have written a very moving tribute to this woman that obviously took a great deal of pride in her family.
    Take care and all the best.

  16. Sending love and thoughts to you and Terry during this difficult time. I’m sure she was amazing and strong, and I’m so happy that she was able to meet Max <3

  17. So incredibly sorry for this massive loss, Amber. I am so glad she was able to meet Max. She sounded like an incredible woman, you brought her back to life in your writing and I just know you will be able to do the same when you talk to Max about her as he grows up.

  18. So very sorry for your loss!! Will keep you, your husband and all who loved her in my thoughts and prayers as you adjust to life without her 💛

  19. What anemotional rollercoaster of a year you’ve already had. I can only reiterate the comment above mine – hugely saddened to read of Soula’s death which, although it may bring her body some relief, cannot be easy for those left behind who mourn for the person they loved. I think it’s utterly glorious that she & Max were able to meet even for a short while & it’s lovely how much he will get to know his grandmother from the quirky family sayings to the character she grew in her son. Wishing you all much strength at such a hard time and hoping that the grieving gets balanced out by all the happy and positive memories of time with Soula.

  20. I loved “It seemed to me that Heaven could only be heaven if all your people were there,.” So true! Sincere condolences on your loss, but I know she will live on in your wonderful storytelling & photography for Max.

  21. There’s a lot of life to celebrate there – be happy that Max brought her such joy in her final days and hold those wonderful memories front and centre in the difficult days.

  22. I am so sorry for your loss, this was such a beautiful and touching post. I am so happy that she got to see her grandchild, those memories are so very special <3 xxxx

  23. I just read this now. I’m so sorry for your loss. Soula sounds like an amazing & strong person. I’m sure she will always be in your hearts, and Max is going to learn all about her from you.
    I know from a personal experience, that time indeed makes everything feel better.

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