Growing up I lived with my Grandparents. Neither of them are with me today and there isn't a day that goes by where I do not think about them. But today on International Women's Day, I think it's especially important for us all to remember the women who support and nurture us, so I want to share with you all a little bit about my Nana, Patricia Mathis.
My Nana came from an Irish Catholic family and became a single mother at the age of eighteen in the late seventies. Something that I imagine would’ve been extremely difficult at the time.
Nowadays, single mothers are still relentlessly judged and vilified so a few decades ago I cannot even imagine how this would’ve been.
I may not have been around at this time, but my Nana always spoke about how she went without, so her kids could have as much as she could possibly provide for them.
I loved listening to my Nana when she’d talk about her life, I retained and remember so much of what she told me; from stories about herself growing up and her family to how she met my Poppy and what life was like for her when she married and moved to America.
While the time I had with my Nana may have only been relatively short, I owe so much of who I am today to her. My Nana always used to say: "Life's, life and life's what you make it" a quote I now often think of in difficult times.
My Nana taught me how to be strong and not strong in the way where you pretend everything is fine and push all your troubles aside, strong in the way where you can admit how you feel yet still face each day and carry on in the best way you can. I watched my Nana grieve the loss of her son, my uncle Justin (something I think we can agree no parent should have to go through) after he went missing.
My Nana's grief wasn't the typical kind of grief many of us experience, it was ambiguous and never-ending as Justin was unfortunately never found. My Nana‘s heart was broken and I'm not sure there is anything that can fix that type of pain but every day she got up and she continued to show me love and care for me because I still needed her. She was selfless, kind and if I am one day half the person let alone mother she was to me then I'll have done something right.
Almost two years after losing her son, my Nana was diagnosed with mouth cancer.
There was nothing they could do. I remember when she told me she was dying. I didn’t cry, but it was numbing, this was the moment I began to lose her in a second way.
The first way I lost my Nana was when Justin initially went missing, while she was still amazing in my eyes a spark in her had just gone out, and now I was about to lose her completely.
I watched my Nana suffer until she ultimately passed away. I hate to think of her as weak because she was far from it. Even on her darkest days while battling cancer she hated to complain.
My Nana died at the young age of 54, leaving behind a loving partner after over 25 years together, four out of her five children and four grandchildren one of which (myself) relied on her as their main caregiver.
When I think of my Nana I think of her dressing gown with cigarette burns, I think of her having a vodka and irn bru on the weekends with my Poppy, I think of how their relationship wasn't perfect, but they loved each other a lot, I think of her warmth, her kindness, her laugh, I think of her tucking me into bed at night and her telling me how much she loves me.
My Nana is gone, but I will never forget the compassion and strength she displayed throughout the last few years she and I had together. To persevere despite the emotional and physical agony she was facing every day is very honourable and brave and something I think we can all learn from.
I see the traits I admired in my Nana in women that surround me every day, whether that's in my friends, my family or even strangers. Who is a woman that inspires you and why? What does being a woman mean to you?
To me, it means being a combination of many things; strong and powerful yet also comforting and caring, it means being myself even if it means being vulnerable but most importantly it means supporting others and doing my best to be a good person.