On the afternoon of Tuesday 5th June, one of the kindest, funniest and most loving people I have ever met, left this world. He was called George Collins, he was 102 and he was my darling grandfather.
As I currently live in Berlin, my mother told me that if I wanted to say goodbye, I should come back home (to Oxfordshire) as quickly as possible. I arrived at the house he’d lived in since 1953, to find him very ill. Other family members were also at his bedside – in the very same room he’d shared with my grandmother, Isabel, for so many years – aware that he probably didn’t have long left.
A district nurse came to administer some pain relief and after she’d left, just mum and I were with him. He opened his big blue eyes, and stared at us both, struggling but determined to keep them open. I told him we all loved him and that he just had to relax.
I kissed his forehead and held his hand. Mum went downstairs and I chatted to grandpa as he fell into another sleep. His breaths became less frequent but he was peaceful. The birds were singing outside and it was a few minutes before I realised that he’d slipped away. It was one of the most peaceful, most beautiful moments I have ever experienced.
Anyone who knows me will also know how much my Grandfather meant to so many of us. Not just to his family but to everyone he met. He was extremely generous, kind, and a great listener. And he never stopped – even when his legs struggled to carry him. From organising everyone’s financial affairs to giving advice, he was always busy.
He was also the life and soul of the party. Even at my cousin’s wedding on New Year’s Eve, he had his own chair placed on the dance floor so that he wouldn’t miss out. As one family friend described him this week, he made the village what it was because of the way he and my late grandmother were always entertaining and welcoming people into their beautiful home.
Even after Granny’s death in 2011, Grandpa continued to socialise, holding bridge and croquet parties. At his 100th birthday party every guest found themselves snaking around the marquee as part of huge conga that Grandpa had requested. He just loved people and he loved having fun.
He also took a very keen interest in news and current affairs and read a newspaper every day. He was always asking me what I thought of the latest political developments. And we had some great discussions. In fact, Grandpa had a great influence on my career and was always so encouraging.
Grandpa has left a huge hole in our lives. But knowing that he lived such a long and fulfilled life, surrounded by those he loved and who loved him, in the house he adored, means the world to those of us he’s left behind.