It has been a rather sad few weeks in our house. First there was the untimely demise of the daughter's much loved hamster. It was horrible to see her go through real grief for the first time. I was so impressed by the way she dealt with it - particularly as it was she who lifted his body out of the cage and laid it in a shoebox for burial. I could never have done that at her age and probably not even now. She drew some pictures of him and we had a small burial ceremony in the garden at which she and her best friend lay flowers.
This lesson in the rituals surrounding death unfortunately turned out to be reinforced just a week later when my legend of a great aunt died. I will miss her so much. To an outsider she could have appeared formidable, but I could talk to her about anything. When my husband and I got together amid shock and horror from some parts of the family, she was very supportive. I was so surprised when we went to stay with her a few months after we had started living together and were shown to a double bedroom. I would never have expected her to allow such a thing but she was totally cool about it.
She and I disagreed politically on just about everything. She couldn't have been more Tory but we had some illuminating and enjoyable debates. Her son, my second cousin, is a bit of a leftie and he, in the most perfect eulogy I have ever heard, summed up how they had their differences and arguments, but how the arguments didn't matter because they were about interesting things.
One thing she could never be accused of was holding back her opinions - she told you exactly what she thought, but never with any malice, and usually with a great deal of humour.
She and her husband, who died 8 years ago, were kind, welcoming, wise and humorous. I spent a fair bit of time with them as a small child and loved it, but it wasn't until I grew up that I really got to know and appreciate them.