Recently, my family lost our beautiful grandmother, great-grandmother and matriarch of our family, Shirley Tangey.
Over the last 12 months we watched our elderly grandmother deteriorate rapidly, with an unknown sickness she failed to acknowledge. It made me angry, sad, desperate to know that there was nothing I could do to save her, when it was already too late for her to save herself. Denial is a powerful thing and her health was out of my control.
After an emergency hospital visit, facilitated by my other grandmother and grandfather, after tests, an extended hospital stay, and scans it was established that her frail, little body was riddled with cancer. There was nothing anyone could do. She was too frail and weak to operate, and too sick for chemotherapy or radiation.
This hit hard.. really hard. I was already grieving and she hadn’t even gone yet. To know that she would sometime soon leave this earth, and I was powerless to stop her, frustrated me deeply on an almost cellular level. I had never lost a family member before.. and because Shirl had been there for my forever, I expected her to be there forever more. Death became so real, and life became so much more apparent. I was angry, infact I was livid. Blaming anyone I could, except her, and not accepting the fact that it was just what it was. I began to flashback, and remember .. everything, every memory with her, every birthday card, every phone call, every interstate trip, every trip to the South Melbourne Markets, every tram ride, every time I gave her sass and she handed it straight back.. Then everything hurt so much more.
Then, on the 29th May, two days before my 28th birthday, she left us earthside, surrounded by her best-friend and her son. I received a call from my aunt, to tell me she had left, and I fell apart. I thought I had time to say goodbye, but I was too late. I fell to the floor surrounded by tears in a pool of emotion. She was gone, just like that. I was devastated, angry, and hurt. Although I didn’t wish her to be in pain, I also didn’t want her to die. I didn’t want her to leave but that is because I’m selfish, and I love her – and I am okay with that.
A week later, our family flew to Melbourne for the funeral. We stayed in an Air B&B close to my late great-grandmothers Albert Park house. It would be the last opportunity I would have to visit this little home, and I had to walk through, remember and show Bart the ‘beauty’ that was this little house. So many memories, spanning generations, created in this house.
On Monday, the 5th of June, her funeral was held. That morning, we visited the church for a rehearsal .. and it all became so real. I just stood there, and tried to listen to the Pastor and to my grandfather while they went over the run-through, it was all just words. My grandfather asked if I would like to do a practice of my eulogy; I declined, it all just seemed too much.
Over midday, we all got ready, left and arrived at the church ready for the private viewing. I wasn’t sure if I was ready to see her little body, cold and lifeless. My aunt had convinced me that I should but I just wasn’t sure, it seemed so confronting. I walked up the stairs, signed into the registry and stood there as I watched my great-uncle, her son, look over her. I retreated into the foyer, a mess, crumbling into my husbands arms. Before I knew it, I was being comforted by my great-uncle, I felt so ashamed to be so upset when he seemed so together. I ran out of the church, onto the street where I began to crumble some more.. Bart said I didn’t have to view her if I didn’t want. I felt like this would be the last time I would lay my eyes on my Granny, so I made my way back up the stairs, into the church, and stood halfway down the aisle as I proceeded to watch my my aunt and grandmother look with love and loss at her cold, lifeless little body.
I was comforted by my little brothers hand as we slowly made our way down the aisle. Three steps forward, two steps back. My brother went first, as I watched him fight back tears, I walked towards him, we stood about a metre from her tiny body. She looked peaceful, just sleeping. She looked better than the last time I saw her. This would be my final memory of her.
As we took our seats, my brother and I held hands like our life depended on it. As the Pastor began to speak, the funeral assistants made their way up the aisle and locked her lifeless form away, forever. In this moment I felt like she died, all over again. My brother and I whimpered for it all became real, once more.
As I sat there, I couldn’t listen, but just stare at her little coffin, adorned with the most beautiful flowers, as colourful as her soul. Finally, my aunt spoke, such true and honest words about my great-grandmother, her grandmother. My aunt and my mother had such a different but still wonderful experience with her, than I did. I wasn’t sure if I was able to speak, and I had geared my brother up to back me, if I couldn’t move, or get the words out. As it became my turn to speak, I felt this overwhelming feeling to ensure that I not only had my chance to say goodbye, on behalf of my brothers and sisters, and our children, but to finally let go.
I stand here today, surrounded by family and friends, devastated at the loss of my beautiful Great Grandmother. Whilst I am saddened by our loss, I reflect on how utterly blessed and honoured my brothers, sisters and our own children are to have had her in our life. My name is Lauren Myers, formerly Tangey, and I am the oldest of Shirleys Great Grandchildren. I speak on behalf of Alice Tangey-Hardin, Scott Tangey-Hardin, Thomas Tangey-Hardin, Bonnie Tangey-Hardin and our own children Parker Myers, Nash Tangey, and Faith Heeroma-Tangey. There is no one in this world that could ever replace her energy, her love and her spunk. The distance we shared between Queensland and Melbourne bore no influence for the love and appreciation we had for our great-grandmother. When we were younger, the best part of our year was Christmas, for that was when Shirl would come and spend 2-3weeks with our families. It was constant laughter, love and sass. Alice and I referred to Granny as the Sassy Queen, and she will be remembered as so – she was fiercely funny, bright and always the spark of the party. We will treasure every memory, every hug, every goodbye and all the love Shirl showed to us over our lifetime. I will forever value memories of homemade porcupines, her love of vanilla slice and going to the south Melbourne markets just to get giant dim-sims. Watching my Nanny and Shirl in the kitchen, I recall laughter, conversations about ‘That’s Life’ and the odd glass of plonk whilst they stirred away a pot of garlic and cream lamb brains, much to the great grand-children’s disgust. The day of my wedding, she came and visited me whilst I was getting ready, she won over the hearts of every bridesmaid I had, while we sipped wine and smoked fags. Shirl had this presence about her; small yet delightfully humble. The day I arrived in Melbourne, we grabbed a bottle of wine on our way home, and some hungry jacks burgers, and headed on back to Albert Park. We sat up until 1am – laughing and chatting – whilst we sipping sickly sweet orange Muscat wine, and eating cold soggy burgers, but I didn’t mind, I got the opportunity to hear all about Grannys and Grandad Don’s life, their work at the sock factory, stories from when Grandad and my Nanny got married and the mischief my mother, Fiona and Aunt Megan, and their cousins Stewart, Ilona and Graham got up to when they were little. These are stories I’d never heard before. The next day I took her to the St Laurent patisserie for coffee and macarons, and many people waved at her, said hello, stopped her in the street – basically she was a miniature local celebrity around these parts. She introduced me to many of her friends bragging about how much of an amazing chef I was, yet I had never really cooked for her. After the patisserie we went to the South Melbourne markets where we met my best friend and her fiancé, who stands at a towering height of 6ft 2” – soaring over my miniature grandmother. We stood and ate freshly shucked oysters at the stand-up bar before we got our famous market dim-sim. We walked around together as she told my best friend and her fiancé the history about the South Melbourne Markets, and how it has changed over the years, and I giggled as I followed behind them. It was the most beautiful day in Melbourne and I will endlessly cherish that day, in my heart forever.. Granny was never really afraid to tell you what she really thought – especially when I came home after a week-long festival, during my second last trip to Melbourne, telling me that ‘I looked like crap’ as she peered over her little rectangle glasses – but at least she told me with a smile. It wasn’t until I left, and hugged her for one of the last times that I realised what an impact and influence Shirl had on my life. My littlest brother Thomas couldn’t be here today but wanted me to pass on this message “Dear Granny, although I didn’t get to spend as much time with you throughout my life as I would have liked, the times I did spend with you will not be forgotten. You made every memory memorable. For now, as time passes the memory of you and the time you spend with us will run through my mind and my heart. You are an angel, I love you Granny, I’ll miss you”. Our family, will forever remember how elegantly sassy and fierce she was, and the cheeky way she looked over her little rectangle glasses, the perfectly timed, posted birthday cards with $5 in them, and the love and kindness she showed us all. My great grandmothers legacy will live on, she will never be overlooked. So Shirl, Our Granny .. hear this.
Your presence we will miss, and your memories we will treasure, we will love you always, remembering you forever. Goodnight Pet.
After I spoke, and retook my seat next to my teary brother. I felt feelings of relief, and release, but still overwhelming sadness. The service carried on and ended with a beautiful poem read by her son. Before I knew it, it was finally her time to leave us, and a group of our family members including my great uncles, grandfather, cousin and my own little brother began carrying her out in that tiny beautiful box.
We followed, as I watched my family push her coffin into the black hearse, and as I watched my brother fight back pain and grief. I watched as my husband held me still and standing as hard as he could, as I felt the world come out from under me, this was it, she’s going now. My male family members, walked behind her hearse until she was out of sight, gone, just like that.
It was a day I will never forget, the day that my family said goodbye to a woman who while tiny in stature was big on impact and personality. My Granny was one in a lifetime. I’m comforted that she is no longer in pain, and she is with her beloved husband and little dog Milo, but still sad and devasted she is gone. I won’t stop loving her but I hope there will be a day soon that I can speak of her without tearing up, or crying. She was a pretty special lady and like my brothers and sisters, my aunt, my grandmother and our family, I am blessed and honoured to have had her in my life.