I said goodbye to a great lady last week.

Maura Cooney, a.k.a Ja. My grandmother.

I have to say, although there’s been a lot of loss in my extended family over the past few years, this was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

She’d been sick for a few years with Alzheimer’s but I think I envisioned this long drawn out journey to death. Aged 92, she’d only moved in to the nursing home a few months previously. Ja was fiercely independent right up until the end. Only when that dreaded disease dug its claws in to her beautiful mind and took over her body as well, was the difficult decision made. In the end death took her so quickly that I’m so grateful I got to say goodbye.

My dad’s mum, Nana, died when I was fifteen. While I was sad and upset for my dad, it was different. I didn’t know Nana as well as I knew Ja. Ja lived around the corner from my mum’s house. She was always over or we were in her house, having dinner or a much beloved glass of wine. She came on holidays with us. My mum and her were very close, as she was to all her seven children.

And now I feel like I’m at the end of era. This caring, full of life, generous, beautiful and loving woman is gone. And it’s hurts.

Oh I could talk about the great 92 years she had. Or the fact that I got to spend 32 of those with her. Or, that the fact that I’m so upset about her passing is a testament to what a great lady she was. But instead I’m going to park my rational brain and allow the love and sadness she’s gone flow through me.

See, that’s what’s been the hardest part about all of this. My rational brain. For the past year, Ja had been quite sick, not knowing who we were or where she was at times. But the Alzheimer’s started long before that. It had been slowly eating away at her for several years. Reducing this fabulous lady to someone unrecognisable, right before our eyes. And I accepted that. I allowed myself to say, well this is nature. This is what happens. And when it really took hold I kept on saying the Ja we know and love is gone. Oh how I wish I could say I only said that to myself. But no, my rationalising brain also felt the need to rationalise my mother’s feelings. My poor mother. I realise now that this was my survival tactic. My way of compartmentalising all the pain and fear of the inevitable.

Except it didn’t prepare me for when reality finally came knocking. I was expecting the call but to say it knocked the wind right out of me would be an understatement.

And now she’s gone.

It pains me to think that I won’t hear her voice again. Or her laugh. Or see her sweet smile as we share a joke or she cracks a witty remark. With a heavy heart I’ve finally allowed the sadness seep through, deep in the knowledge that I’ve been in mourning a lot longer than I realised.

We love you Ja! You’ll be greatly missed, now and forever xx

I’m hoping to post a clip of Ja on the website in a few weeks but in the meantime, listen to my mum talk fondly of her and the illness that finally took her from us.


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