Grannie Bowes, 1 May 1918 — 9 January 2009
My mind is crowded with memories of Grannie Bowes. Of those warm days in summer when she would host my sister and I, treating us to elevensies, to a mug of Ribena and half a Kit Kat each. Of those moments passing through the fly screen door at Tree Tops with bowls with which to harvest gooseberries from the bottom of the garden. Of super-ripened bananas powdered with glucose for pudding at lunchtime. Of mountains of sunflower seeds munched before Coronation Street whilst babysitting for us at night. Childhood with Grannie was always a joy.
When I was a teenager, Grannie set herself up as my mentor, undertaking to study GCSE French at the same time as me. I was a poor student, but she always encouraged me, writing out vocabulary on pieces of card, hoping that I would be inspired by her love of the language. She would speak of a hitch-hiking adventure in France with Uncle David years earlier, as if she dreamed that I might become fluent and accompany her on another great journey in her retirement.
Grannie was forever generous, always thinking of others and giving. Many will remember her famous coffee mornings for animal welfare, and those miniature bricks bought to fund the construction of an animal sanctuary. We grandchildren will remember the boxes of goodies she always prepared for each new term of college: jars of coffee, packets of biscuits, tinned food and cartons of juice. And we will remember too that she never forgot a birthday, or let an anniversary pass by unmarked.
Yet, for me, it was over the past ten years that my relationship with Grannie became something special. Grannie became a sincere friend, an earnest advisor. As I embarked on a journey of faith that troubled many, Grannie took it upon herself to offer me considered counsel, never shying from confronting any issue head-on. In that sense, Grannie was a true friend: not one to say only what we want to hear.
When I returned from university she would request my company for lunch at a local restaurant and, over a two-course meal, she would question me and recount tales of her life with Grandpa, relating the lessons that their life had taught them. She saw her role as that of a mediator, a peacemaker. The lengthy letters she sent me were often an unusual cocktail of idle chit-chat, Christian theology and her own unique personal philosophy.
Grannie was a true blessing from God. When, at the age of 83, she journeyed from Hull to London to join me in the celebration of my marriage, she left a remarkable impression on so many of my friends. Every single time we met up over the seven and a half years that followed, I would listen as they asked after Grannie Bowes—about her health and wellbeing. As one of them said when she learnt of her passing, ‘She was a real, honest to God, lovely person—the stuff of real grannies.’
Two weeks before Christmas, Grannie called us to ask if we would visit her. I suggested Boxing Day and she said that would be nice. So early that morning we set out to drive up north to see her, and what a blessing that was. We ate lunch together in the dining room and despite her evident frailty she spoke with us like it was a reunion of old friends. And so it was.
Grannie Bowes was more than a grandmother. She was a friend, an advisor, a mentor, a teacher and so much more than this. Acknowledging her role as mediator, all of us can take comfort from beautiful words: blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.
Each of us will have memories like these that will comfort us as our own lives pass by. All of us will thank God that we had the opportunity to know and learn from her, and in our hearts we will always be grateful to her.
All of us belong to God and unto Him is our return.