8:30 pm, 18th of December 2008. The phone rings. It's dad calling from up the coast. Nan died. No matter how long our struggle with death, and how much time we have to prepare - in the end it arrives unexpected.
The coming hours burst with phone calls, letters, suitcases and tears.
Two days later, dad and I jump on a plane to Germany, where most of our immediate family live. She did, too. It's close to Christmas. We don't feel very festive.
Winter. Cold air and icy rain embrace us when we finally get there. It's good to see my family, even if her death is what brings us back together. The coming days are filled with food, hot drinks and story telling. Her stories. She had a big life, Nan. Columbia, Germany, children, the Arts…She loved the ocean. She'd stand by it for hours, looking out, seeing, and thinking.
We wait. We play games to pass time. We go up into her little flat, sometimes alone, sometimes together. We burn candles, look at her photographs, and listen to her favourite music. The flat feels strange- familiar yet unknown. It's full yet void of her. Books, paintings, her winter coat, her medicine. Her empty bed.
Then it's Christmas, the day after her funeral, and three days before her 90th. We don't do presents. No decorating, none of that. We decide to drive up into the mountains to look out, to see and to think.
Up there, quietly in amongst snow and view, close to the sky, we celebrate her life.