Grannies

I’m not really into great eulogies, describing the Queen as the only constant in the lives of our generation through turbulent times. That’s the role of grannies generally. Perhaps, in that respect, she was the nation’s grannie. Yes, but a very privileged grannie, whose moderately small family received hundreds of millions of pounds of state benefits — sorry, grants — annually for seventy years.

I don’t mean to be irreverent, but however fondly we hold her in esteem, she is still just an ordinary person like you or I. She worked hard throughout her life, I guess. Harder than me, definitely, opening things into old age, making speeches, hosting dinners and travelling internationally to represent the nation. But harder than a nurse, teacher, doctor, shopkeeper, factory worker, researcher? Probably not. But hey, it’s not a competition.

All I’m saying is keep your wits about you. Keep a level head. Don’t go overboard. I get it: if you’re an Anglican, she was the head of the church (of England). In Paul’s epistles, Jesus is the head of the church, right? So, er, she was only Supreme Governor of the Church of England, which somehow sounds far less sinister than Supreme Leader of some Muslamic polity. Perhaps it’s all down to your tone of voice.

Yes, she was head of state for numerous realms, territories, and protectorates. Some countries have presidents, some have kings. As citizens, we must show due respect to our rulers. So the nation mourns. Google’s banner has turned black for the day. The BBC masthead too. Crowds will gather, flowers will be laid, television broadcasts will be suspended to make way for more eulogies. But in the end, we will all be raised the same, pauper or sovereign, to be judged justly before the Lord of all the worlds, stripped of all grand titles.

That’s why I dispense with all this deferential applause and give her her proper title: grannie. For most of us, of my generation, that’s all she was. Though the grannie you saw once a year at Christmas only. Not the grannie who was there for you through your own hard times, with whom you could share your innermost thoughts, who would stand by you through thick and thin. That was the role of my two grandmothers in the last years their lives.

My paternal grandmother took on the role of defender of my faith when I became Muslim. She was a strict Methodist, and saw that as common ground. She was the first member of the family to except that my journey of faith was sincere, and never considered it a problem at all. She was also the first to accept and congratulate me on my intention to marry, embracing my wife from the very first moment she met her. She was in her eighties when she travelled down from Hull to London to attend my civil and religious marriage in August and my walima in September, 2001.

My maternal grandmother, too, took an active role in my life from the moment I moved to London in 1996 to study at university, until she passed away a decade ago. So close were we, that I bought a house eight miles from her home in 2005. Though her Christian faith was immensely important to her — her early days in Britain began with missionary work — she was able to accommodate our faith, embracing us as we were. From the earliest days, she too allied herself with my beloved, comparing notes on their migrant experience.

I felt the loss of these two great women profoundly. I miss popping around to my maternal grandmother for afternoon tea, or her dropping in to see us. For those two women, I mourned at length. For the nation’s grannie, I just said: “Oh, that’s sad.” I don’t think I will join the nation in its collective outpouring in grief. I’ll just take it as an opportunity to remember my own grannies and all they did for me through turbulent times.

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