Monday, 5th of August, 2019
“What if my uncle or grandpa die and I don’t get to see them again? ” I wrote on my latest post about a week ago.
Less than a week later, one my of worst fears was realised. Pappou Costas, everyone’s favourite grandpa, the kindest, sweetest, funniest, loving, genuine man I had the blessing to have as a grandpa to look after me, take me cycling, take me down town on the bus at the big market in the old city on a Saturday, attend every birthday, name day, every single celebration, died a few days after his 83rd birthday.
When I talked to him last Saturday I promised I’d go see him first thing when I’m back in Cyprus in just a few weeks time. After he lost himself in his own thoughts for a moment (dementia is a horrible, horrible disease) he told me ‘I’m not going to be here, I’ll leave this place’. I cried after we hang up. I hoped he meant he’d leave the nursing home he was temporarily at but deep down I feared he meant he’d leave us, for good.
On Wednesday afternoon whilst observing my classmates teach, I got a message from my little sister and my mum saying that grandpa was not feeling that well. As soon as I got out of the classroom, I called the little one. I knew what she’d tell me before she spilled the words out. Pappou Costas died that morning, on his own at a nursing home, after a stroke.
I couldn’t stop crying but I went to the loo, washed my face and went back into the classroom. I can’t even remember how I managed not to cry in front of everyone. As soon as I walked out of the classroom I burst into tears and cried until bedtime.
I thought of quitting the course and flying home for the funeral the following day. But that wouldn’t have helped in anything. Grandpa’s only wish was for his children and grandchildren who adored, to be happy. Quitting the CELTA course and not having the option to teach English after my Cyprus break would have been a terrible decision.
“Please don’t quit, you flying here just for the funeral won’t make anyone happier. Stay, finish the course” my mum, my sisters and my cousin said.
They were right. And if I want to travel in the next few years, I’d have to learn to deal with terrible situations like this. I have been through them before, but it never gets easier.
I had no idea how to manage it. I was to teach the following day and all I could think of is that I’ll never see my grandpa again. I’ll never see his wide smile, with the odd hair from his moustache always falling into his mouth. I’ll never hear his laughter, his jokes, the way he greeted me every time he saw me or spoke to me on the phone.
But I had to find a way. People go through this every day. I can do it. First I emailed the course leaders. They may well notice my puffy, red eyes and they might misinterpret it and worried I’m not happy with the course.
I then sat down for hours preparing my lesson plan. Honestly, I can’t remember much from Wednesday night. It’s all a blur. Only thing I remember is all the messages I got from my friends. I never missed my friends more than last week and I’ve never felt them closer. I never felt so loved but so lonely at the same time.
I hardly remember anything from Thursday.
“Remember, teachers are really actors“, my dear auntie Sophie said. That’s what I tried to do. I cried my eyes out on my way to the college but when I walked in I pretended I was someone else. It worked for most of the day. I only broke down a couple of times.
When I walked into the classroom, one of the tutors, Jonny, took me to another room.
–‘Please don’t ask me if I’m OK otherwise I’d start crying’, I said.
-‘I know. I’m just checking…’ he replied.
And that was it. I started crying. He welled up. He gave me a hug and offered me a tissue and a few days off if I wanted to. I didn’t want to though. It would have probably made everything worse, staying at home in a house full of strangers, with no friends around. I will always remember that hug, a human feeling empathy and crying with another human’s pain. So poignantly beautiful.
I did OK in the input sessions but just before 2pm, when the funeral was just about to start in Cyprus, I went outside for some fresh air before the class I were about to teach. I had a moment of silence to myself in honour of my grandpa whilst I felt the sunshine warming up my face. It was cloudy all day but at that very moment the sun came out.
‘My grandpa brought the sunshine out all the way from Cyprus to me, to tell me everything will be OK. I love you grandpa’ I heard the little voice inside my head say. I wiped my tears, took a deep breath and walked back in the classroom.
If anyone told me a week ago that in the next seven days I’d lose my grandpa, cry in front of both of my tutors and somehow manage to pretend I’m OK for days and actually deliver a great class, I’d have never believed them. Who? Me! I cry watching TV adverts and wear my heart on my sleeve, how on earth did I manage this?
Sadly I didn’t make it to Chris’s wedding and I feel terrible for that. For those who know me in person or have been reading my blogs, you know how much I love Chris, he’s one of my favourite people in the world and I’d have loved to be there and celebrate with him the happiest day of his life, but I just couldn’t. I was exhausted. Mentally and physically. Drained. I couldn’t feel any other emotion other than numbness and deep sadness.
5 days later and I’m doing better. I’m still sad and I cried my eyes out writing this, but I can control my grief just enough to get me going for now. It will hit me as soon as I’m done with this insanely intense course. For now, a day at a time.
This post is dedicated to my grandpa and I couldn’t not write a few words.
“A society grows great when old men plant trees the shade of which they know they will never sit in”. Good people do things for other people. That’s it. The end. Anne said to Tony on Ricky Gervais ever so relevant After Life. That’s what our grandpa did all his life. Good things for other people without expecting anything in return.
This is the last time I saw him, last Christmas, watching his grandchildren and grand grandchildren laughing and playing.
I asked the family to share some of their photos. Always surrounded by his loved ones, always laughing. That’s how we’ll all remember him.
I love you pappou mou. Our lives will never be the same without you. I promise I’ll always try to follow your example. Do good things for people. Make this a better world for everyone.