“She’s strong willed” my Nan used to say to my mother as I was a young girl growing up. My mother would often label me as ” bossy” or ” stubborn” but my Nan had the best measure of me.

I would often spend Saturday night’s choosing to be with my Nan, having a sleepover at her house. I loved it. I am the eldest grandchild of seven. Growing up, my Nan provided the childcare for my mum and her siblings in the school holidays, and I hated sharing her. Having my sleepover time at Nan’s was me reclaiming that quality time. She let me play with her hair and give her facials…she’d tickle my back while telling me stories of the magical pixies to send me to sleep. My time with her was precious and helped me immensely as I grew up and was invaluable as I hit my teenage years.

I had a relationship with her that I have never and will never experience again. Unique. Precious. Although my relationship with my mum is awesome, as I was growing up her time spent at work and doing grown up mum things kind of ruled out time for understanding my character in great depth – this has since been rectified, I hasten to add. But growing up, my Nan was my best friend and confidant. She made me realise that the world was there for the taking. She always believed in me. She wanted me to go out and own who I was, to never hold back- to fulfil my dreams and fight for what was right. She encouraged my independence and freewill and wanted me to challenge any barriers I faced. She loved me just as I was. My voice of reason and the reason I am who I am today.

Her flame red hair, diamond glint in her eyes and smile, were more than just her outward appearance. She knew what she wanted and she knew how to get it. She was pure determination in human form. My connection with her soon made me realise that I too had her fire, her energy and her thirst to be recognised as a person. To be seen. My Nan was the wisest woman I knew. Graceful, kind with an edginess that made her appeal to the entire world. She would walk in to a room and light it up. She was my kindred spirit, full of life on her terms. Life had made her that way. I loved her with all my heart.

As I got older, and life threw unforgivable things at me, it seems the path my Nan had lead me on had shifted somewhat. I believe that as things happen, you get shunted onto a different track, that is until you realise you’ve been walking along the wrong path and you do something about it.

One fateful Sunday she was knocked down, crossing the road. Intensive care, long chats to her, holding her hand and begging her to stay a while longer with us saw the determination that she had to survive. She did, but the accident sped up her lung condition and her quality of life wasn’t like it was before the accident. However, she defied all the doctors and went on being my Nan. I always knew I could speak to her but I felt worried about bringing her my burdens as she was so frail. So I kept them hidden. I was walking a path so far from where I should have been and I didn’t know how to get back.

August 16th 2011. My Nan died. My world stopped as I felt my fire snuffed out. She was gone. I spent the next few years drifting further and further away from the person I should have been. I would do for everyone and yet do nothing for myself. Where was that feisty, determined young lady ? Where was the fire? Where had she gone? I missed her and wanted her back. I was determined to get her back…pick her up and put her back on the path she should have been on all along.

December 27th 2015. The day that would have been my Nan’s 80th birthday. The day that I looked in the mirror and said, ” I’m coming to get you”. The day I found my absent determination to make my life my own, on my terms and reclaim my path. My fire has been reignited. Today I’m winning. I’m determined to be me.

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