The Great Grandma Mac


I’ve been putting off writing this post for a few days.

I could have put it off indefinitely and simply moved on to other things which have been happening in and around the house, but I couldn’t until I got this out. I felt very strongly I needed to lay some words down and pay a tribute of sorts, in my own wordy way, to a very dear member of this family who passed away earlier in the week – Great Grandma Mac.

A few weeks ago Great Grandma Mac had a small stroke and the doctors informed us things weren’t looking especially good for her. There were signs, they said, that the end was near.

Naturally, the whole family gathered and took turns in sitting with her. We didn’t know how much time she had, or if she was going to recover enough to communicate with us, but everyone wanted to have the chance to hold her hand and talk to her and tell her how very, very loved she was.

The thing I will always love most about Great Grandma Mac, more than her love of cards and calling a spade a shovel, is how she accepted my two oldest children as family from the get-go with no hesitation and seeing no great need to over think it. The moment Tracey and I were married, before even, she had two great grandchildren and spoiled and smothered them accordingly. Too often in my job I see blended families where the children from previous relationships are more bystanders than participants. There was none of that from any of Tracey’s family, least of all this woman.

And as testament to that, the moment they heard of Grandma’s situation Master21 drove up from Brisbane and Miss18 flew in from Melbourne to spend time by her bed, and weep away from it. 

Proving that you can still find something to smile about in the most heart wrenching of situations, Tracey told me how her and Miss18 were sitting on either side of Grandma’s bed, each holding a hand and talking.

Suddenly Miss18 squealed.

“She squeezed my hand!” she said.

“I looked at the hand I was holding,” Tracey told us later, “and gave it a squeeze. Nothing. I lifted it up an inch or two and dropped it. It simply flopped to the bed. Then it occurred to me, I had the dud side!”

And the moment Miss18 got up to do something she shot around the bed and nabbed the ‘good’ hand.

Then there was Miss6 who decided to entertain Grandma Mac who was, at this point, unable to leave her bed.

“I will sing you a song, Grandma,” she exclaimed excitedly, as if she couldn’t conceive of anything more exciting. And then she started singing, “I know a song that will get on your nerves, get on your nerves, get on your nerves. I know a song that will get on your nerves…”

If anything could have encouraged Grandma Mac to get out of bed and leave the room, surely this would have been it.

It’s a small thing, but the telling of these stories had us all in stitches, and didn’t we need that.

One of my fondest personal moments of the last two weeks was when Grandma was coming good, getting some movement back in her right arm, but more importantly able to communicate a little. I was chatting away and leaned back against the window frame in her room, not realizing it was a sash window, and it jolted open a few inches and scared the bejesus out of me.

“Oh, you stupid boy,” Grandma grinned from the bed. It was just like old times 🙂

Finally, in the wee hours of Tuesday morning, Great Grandma Mac took leave of this world and passed peacefully and painlessly beyond it. We’d all gotten to spend time with her and tell her we loved her, and she was able to say the same to us. I don’t think it’s possible to imagine a better exit.

On Thursday we all huddled around her grave, where she was placed with her late husband, and a little of her life was shared with the crowd who’d gathered.

Rather wonderfully, Miss9 and her two cousins (aged 10 and 6) each stood up and said a few words to the congregation. I couldn’t have managed it myself but Miss9 asked the day before if she could. Then set about writing and practicing her little speech, every word of which is her own, and which I’ve copied below:

As you all know her name is Doris McIntyre but to me her name is Great Grandma Mac. She has a strong heart to live up to 87. We are so lucky we know and met her. She has very lovely friends and family which meant she had a lovely life. It’s sad she had to leave and die but just remember she is in your heart. And, she has other family and friends in heaven she gets to see. We all looked after her really well. Thanks everybody for looking after my grandma.

She did so well. So did the boys. The Mac would have loved to have heard them all talk.

So, all in all, it’s been a rough week as one of the family’s matriarchs has left a void in our lives which we’re filling with memories and stories and hugs and love.

And, like Miss9, I feel very privileged and lucky to have shared some time on Earth with this woman who was so generous with her love and time and made all our lives so much richer and warmer for being in it.

We love you, Grandma Mac. We miss you.

But more importantly, who’s going to call me a stupid boy now?

 When not over here, Bruce Devereaux hangs out at his ‘BIG FAMILY little income’  Facebook Page.

 ’raising a family on little more than laughs’


  • I’m sorry for the loss of someone who was loved so and in turn ,it seems, loved you all too.
    This week I too lost someone dear to me , my dear Aunty Bette , it was an honour title for she was a big part of my life before and after school . She was a mother of seven , she taught swimming and was in the St Johns , she smoked and always thought I looked like Amanda Keller ( I don’t think I do ) . She was a darling person and I feel bad I didn’t see her much these past few years . Sad week all round . Photos ,memories ,stories they live on there don’t they?

    • That’s more often the case, isn’t it? Regrets at not having said ‘I love you’ enough or recently. We were very lucky. Sorry for your loss Donna. But I’m sure Auntie Bette knew what you meant to her. After all, she was there while you built up those cherished memories.

  • Very sorry to hear such sad news. 🙁 Brought back memories of our Grandma Mac, who passed away at Christmas last year. She also accepted my two older boys as her own and was able to enjoy her first ‘blood’ granddaughter for 15mths. Grandmas are such very special people and very missed indeed!

    • It’s a gift to find people so accepting and able to love. And so lovely she got to meet and enjoy your latest 🙂

  • Sorry to hear of your loss, but how wonderful that you all were able to spend time loving her before she left. As to who will call you “stupid boy” now, I reckon your lovely wife might take that on!

  • I am sorry to hear of Great Grandma Mac’s passing, it can be hard to fill the void left when these special people are no longer with us. My Grandma passed away five years ago today, under similar circumstances. I am grateful we were able to have a chance to sit with her and say goodbye, and that she got to spend five happy years with my daughter, and got to meet my newborn son in the days before she left us. Grandmas are such special people…

  • True Beth. We were blessed in so many ways to have her with us for so long, it feels a little ungrateful to complain. She met all the great grandkids, which is just wonderful 🙂

  • Firstly I am sorry for yours, Tracey’s and your children’s loss of someone who sounds like a really wonderful person and matriarch to your family.
    Secondly, what a beautiful tribute to great grandma Mac.she sounds like she would have had a very for filled life, one that was filled with laughter, joy, beautiful memories a family that loved her dearly.
    I am glad also that your oldest children were able to be welcomed into the family as though they were always apart of it, that shows real integrity.
    Sending lots of love, light and strength as you all grieve the loss of great grandma mac. Xo

  • I’m sorry, I am just reading this for the first time. That is such a lovely tribute to a wonderful lady. I am sitting here with tears rolling down my face, having lost a much-loved uncle on 17th Jan 2014. God bless you all xox

  • If you want somebody to call you a stupid boy now I can fill that spot for you. Thats what mother-in-laws are for.

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