For as long as I can remember my Grandad was always a big part of my life. He was a Down man, never lost his accent; I’m convinced they’re made from stronger stuff up there. He worked in the hospital for decades and was one of those people who knew almost everyone in the town. I vividly remember watching him walk to work every morning from the window, cap on and hands behind his back as he strolled away. I can also remember the day they told him he was too sick to work anymore. Being forced to leave a workplace he loved so much broke his heart but it never stopped him.
Even though I was only 8 or 9 at the time, I realised even then it wasn’t normal for someone’s health to deteriorate so fast and towards the end there wasn’t anything he didn’t have wrong with him. When it comes to illness I fully believe your mental strength can have a huge impact on recovery, regardless of what it is. Knock after knock came as the years went by and still he never lost sight of himself. We all have our bad days, but it’s the ability to bounce back from those days that can make us or break us.
Over 12 years I saw my grandad go in and out of hospitals, operation after operation and enough medication to supply a small hospital but he never stopped fighting.
There was never a day he didn’t have money for “sweets” sitting on the table for me, even when I got past the stage of wanting to spend my money on just sweets. I’ll never forget one of the last times I saw him, bedbound, exhausted and he still managed to reach over and hand me a fiver.
During my two years of college I struggled with depression, I felt lost and didn’t really appreciate a lot in my life at the time. As my grandad got sicker I began to realise how much a healthy mind can make all the difference. He inspired me to start looking after my mental wellbeing and to put myself first. Here was a man who was given 6 months to live 12 years beforehand and still never lost who he was, or lost the will to keep going even during the lowest points.
He passed away in June, peacefully, surrounded by those he loved most. After over a decade of fighting something that would’ve broken so many others he was finally ready to go. It was the first grandparent I’d lost and it will always be hard but I think about him with a smile because he wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.