In the bedroom, humid as a butterfly house, Betty lies pinned in on all sides, squashed, amidst her 5 siblings in a small bed. Exhausted from tap dancing at the top of the stairs she wedges in amongst the elbows, knees and warm breath. Fifty years later she sits hemmed in with her granddaughter and namesake Elizabeth at her sewing table. Years of dress making and patching trousers prepared her for many hours teaching me how to embroider bookmarks and table mats with remnants of blue binca fabric.
Her calm gentle love was always there to support me and lift me higher towards my dreams. Unshakable faith held her steadfast in her love and gratitude even to her last days draped in dementia. The final words that she shared with me were in muddled prayer, repentance and thanks before her Alzheimer’s took that final thread of communication. It’s ironic as whilst she lost her voice through pneumonia I was finding mine again after many years silencing it.
As young girls Betty and myself loved singing & chattering away, a free flying tuneful confidence that she never lost. Her joyful bright conversation and song continued even when she was not aware of her thoughts ending only as her words were replaced with grunts and gasps in her final weeks. Strangely in my adult years as I married and drifted away from her company; I began to lose my sense of self and voice. I got lost amidst my labels of mum, employee and wife leaving me unable to speak up for myself and what I knew to be true.
At the time her dementia increased I was amidst a Leadership training working through my personal baggage, self limiting beliefs and lack of confidence. It felt that as though she gave me back my voice. Like she held on for me as inspiration of strength and love until I was ready. In fact the day that she passed I was on my way to visit her in hospital. It feels like she clung onto life until I was ready to carry the love light on and serve this world with our shared love. With her strength and belief I am now on a mission to empower 1,000,000 mums (kids of all species including fur babies) to find and use their voice to transform the world so that Every Voice Counts and is Heard.
I wrote my first piece on my Nanny as a woman that inspired me over 30 years ago in primary school. Since then her full heart, belief in love, support and community has continued to guide me. I am so grateful to her for everything that she taught me from hands on cooking, sewing, singing and storytelling to being creative with my imagination, running free in the garden and in my dreams. Love you Nanny Betty Baines, as my four year old calls you, sweet dreams and soar freely to Grandad. I will always hold you in my heart and think of you as I see my first butterfly of the year and feed the friendly robin in our garden. Night night Nanny xx