Sing A Rainbow


On Friday 13th at 4.30am my maternal grandmother died. She was a devoted Christian/Catholic all her life. She used to take disabled people on pilgrimages to Lourdes and in my eyes, began to resemble Mother Mary as she grew older. She taught me to knit. Loved to sing; to hear singing. When I was seven she developed an illness called Motor Neurons that kills most people within seven years yet Gran defied death and kept on living.

Over my life I watched this red headed Boudicca  lose her ability to speak. Her soft voice was reduced to a soft moan and then to silence. Next her body language was stolen. Her ability to stand, walk and dance became a memory from yesterday. Reduced to an wheelchair her hands were taken; the strength to hold a pen, hold her fork, press the buttons on her electronic communicator … It was all gradually tugged away.

In the end all that was left was her beautiful face, her smile and laughs and the spirit that shone from her.

This was her language.


As I mentioned before, on Friday morning, at 4.15am, Gran finally passed away. The Motor Neurons had wasted her muscles so she could no longer leave her bed. She was in a lot of pain. Because of the muscle wastage, her tongue could no longer steer food and water down the correct side of her throat. She was put on a high dosage of morphine, so strong that she fell into a deep slumber.

The nurses said she had a day, two at the most.

Gran raised a metaphorical eyebrow and lived on for eight. Haha, fuck you death. Catch us if you can!


A few days before death caught Gran I sat with her. I pushed the pillow away from her one good ear and we talked. Well, actually I talked and she listened. Her right eye was a tiny bit open and she communicated to me by moving her iris and occasionally released a single tear.

“Gran,” I whispered to her. “Do you remember the song that I used to sing to you when I was little?”

Silence. No movement.

“Do you remember Gran? You would be in the kitchen and I would sing that song and you’d ask me to sing it again?” I paused, pushing the pillow away from her ear so she could hear me clearly. A little tear crept from her eye. “You said you loved that song,” I reminded her. “That it made you think of flowers …”

 Through the tiny crack of her eyelid, I could see her eye moving as if in acknowledgement. I don’t think she remembered the song …

“I’ll sing it to you,” I whispered. Prayed I could get it in tune. Didn’t want to torture Gran with bad singing when she could do nothing but lie there and endure it. I took a deep breath and did the best I could do. Then again. Then one more time.

Another little tear from Gran’s eye.

Over the years the two of us had sat for many hours in her living room ,talking about spirituality and the meaning of life and our passions to contribute to humanity. Unlike her, who had gone to church religiously, Gran knew I had a library of issues regarding organised religion, so we didn’t really go there. Instead we talked about the way God/Consciousness pervades everything and the enduring power of love and creativity.

Back then Gran was able to keep up her end of the conversation on a Hawkinite electronic communicator. Her responses took ages to write and if she made a spelling error, she would go back and painstakingly correct it. I am possibly the most impatient person in the known galaxy, but I never finished Gran’s sentences for her … even though I’d guessed them five, ten minutes before and was now tortured by endless rewriting.

And now, in this  final conversation, we talked about God. I referred to her God and she referred to my Goddess and we knew they were one and the same.  I told Gran that I thought we should say what she would call a prayer and I would call a ceremony. Using language and imagery, I wove images of angels – Micheal, Gabriel, a bunch of others that turned up, two Indian Goddesses in golden saris and some other faceless beings, into  ring around her.

Again, a little tear fell from Gran’s eye. I touched it with my finger tips. They felt leathery and rough against Gran’s porcelain skin. I couldn’t even feel the wetness of the tear, so insensitive my fingers have become it seems!

Finally we communicated about dying and the bridge and what was coming and fields full of flowers – cornflowers and blue bells – and dancing and singing and roller skating and rainbow colours.

In that moment Death and God/Life/Everything seemed very much the same thing.

Irreverence and reverence went out the window … Death and Life simply swirled together into two entwined spirals that became an all encompassing love, spiralling, spiralling, dancing, merging and blurring.

Gran let out her last little tear, like a whisper.

Then the conversation was complete.


“How long has she been awake for?” I asked my mum in a low voice as I came out of Gran’s bedroom and into the kitchen.

My mum looked surprised. “She’s not awake.”

“But … yes she is. Her eye is open.”

“Her eye is just like that. It has been open all day and all night.”

“But she was crying …” I paused, baffled and bewildered. “And she was answering me by moving her eye. We talked about … ” My voice faded away.

They say that when someone is about to die, that their hearing is the last thing to go. Never before had I felt so much like someone was consciously listening … even the awake people. It was the most sacred, surrendered, cradled conversation (if it was a conversation and not me talking to myself) that I’d ever had. The whole experience left me feeling a bit strange; disjointed. Like I’d been asleep and dreaming, but believed a dream to be real and now I wasn’t sure whether the boundaries between the two crossed.

Frowning inwardly, I went home to the Sanctuary.

A day and a half later Gran died. All this is part of the reason why I haven’t managed to get on here again all week.

This was the song I/we sang.

Sing a Rainbow


9 thoughts on “Sing A Rainbow

  1. I’m so, so sorry for your sad loss, Bethan. Like you, I was very close to my gran. That was a lovely time you shared with her at the end. having had what they call a ‘near-death-experience’ I know first hand that you can continue to to hear right to the very end.

    It’s strange how people ‘society’ grant us their understanding of a depth of loss and grief depending on our relationship with the deceased. The death of your parents, siblings, children, spouse/partner qualifies you for more understanding for your loss than grandparents or others. In my case, when Grandma died, I wanted a week off work compassionate leave (unpaid) and my boss said “If it had been your mother or father I would have understood, but your grandmother?”

    Why? I have never understood that.

    As for the ‘God’ thing, we do live on. We live on in the memories of those who knew and loved us. Your gran will live on through in your mind and in the minds of all who knew and loved her.

    • Thank you for your lovely message. You know it is a strange thing, but compared to when my father and brother died, the impact of Gran’s death has not been nearly as intense or shocking. In many ways Gran’s passing away has actually pulled everything into sharp focus. It is rather like looking at life through a bloody good pair of binoculars where everything is sharp and soft at the same time yet strangely accurate. I had a lovely chat with the Fosbury Goddess earlier this evening and we were laughing at how big things like death cause all the little annoying toads in life to become smaller than ever. What might have hooked you before becomes something you can just shake your head at and flick to one side so you can focus on the important things. Thanks again for your kind words. xxx

  2. Oh, super, super hugs to you. My heart wants to sing rainbows, too, to honour this special time you had with your grandmother. I am in awe of her strength and the family’s strength and support as she lived her difficult journey with spirit.

  3. My lovely Bethan!
    I am so so sorry to hear Gran has died. When I was with you she was so frail already, but held onto life with a strenght that is so typical for all memebers of your family. But the Grim Reaper can’t be defeated for ever and it was probably time for her to break free of the confinements of the body and start to sing and dance again in another sphere. Still – Granddad must be devastated and I hope he will leran to cope with her being gone.
    Treasure that last conversation, because seldom in life we have the opportunity for last words in the right fashion.
    I am sending love and light to all of you!

    • Hi Janin – and thank you for the love and the light. I know … it is very sad. I’m trying to spend as much time with Granddad as possible. He’s sending my mum around the twist because he’s very confused and keeps forgetting what has happened to Gran so we have to keep telling him. Poor thing. I keep trying to think of things to do to reintegrate him back into the community. Am going to take him to Ads’ deli!! Also (through impeccably well hidden gritted teeth) I have suggested we go and find a church and I’ll go to some services with him. He used to go to church with Gran years ago so I was kind of hoping he might find some nice people there to get to know. My final plan is to take Snakes and Ladders around to play … I hope you are well and that lovely little angel is happy and gorgeous. Just think – I may be able to come and visit next year and our bundles of joy can meet! Loads of love darling Janin xxx

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