True Royalty

Before Christmas, I started writing a blog celebrating my beautiful Grandma, Brenda Elizabeth Hill.  Her life struck me as pretty remarkable and I wanted to sing her praises, aware that so often we don’t let people know how we feel about them until a funeral.

Thankfully, we’re a pretty open family and always tell each other how we feel.  So before Christmas we had long chats about the past and I told her how much I admired how she lived her life and she’s always known how much we all adore her.

Grandma turned 95 on Christmas Eve and then we had a magical Christmas Day as a family, in her retirement home.  We took over a room and decked it out with decorations and had a wonderful Christmas lunch.  Kaya did magic tricks and Grandma was on great form, full of wit and full of fun – as per usual.  I made her a nostalgic Christmas Hamper containing all her favourites – Newberry Fruits, Walnut Whips, Turkish Delight – and her favourite perfume.

And then, in January, she passed away.

It was all very sudden. I  got the call on the Friday and went straight to visit and we did a 24 hour bedside vigil as a family. Beautiful Grandma passed away that weekend.

Her life was remarkable.


A younger sister to three boys, she grew up envious of their lives.  By all accounts she was a bit of a tomboy – like me. We always laughed as a family about one Christmas when she woke up early, only to see her brother had been given a train and she was miffed to see been given a sewing basket.  So, she swapped the labels over!  Of course, when her mum woke up she was made to swap back, by which time her brother had demolished all the chocolates that had filled the sewing basket.  Sad times!

Grandma always had to fight her corner with older brothers to keep up with and held down two jobs to support her family and mother.  Her life was never easy but she faced everything with grace, poise and a steel determination.

When she married my Grandad, as with so many couples who married during the war, he had to return to the frontline 2 days after their wedding.

When my dad arrived on the scene,  like many women at the time, she pretty much brought him up single handedly till my Grandad returned from war, 3 years later.

Then, aged 47, she had one of the worlds first heart valve replacements.  Back then, the operation was hugely risky to the point that my Grandad had to stay goodbye to her. Things were primitive as her body was packed with ice to slow her heart down, so they could operate but the operation was a great success.  Ironically, throughout her subsequent life, my Grandad wrapped  her in cotton wool and yet he passed away 18 years ago before her.

Throughout her life Grandma was often mistaken for The Queen!  When I visited Buckingham Palace a few years ago to meet HRH, all I wanted to tell her was how much my Grandma looked like her.  And how, in all honesty, the way my Grandma lived her life was way more royal than most royals!  Fun loving, generous to the point that she’d give you the clothes off her back if she thought you needed them – Grandma was a true lady, through and through.  She was also incredibly wise and I knew I could go to her with anything and she’d have an inspiring take on it.

My childhood memories with her are pretty magical:  Clonking up her garden path in her high heels with their fur hearth rug around my shoulders, rolling down grassy slopes at their nearby Ham Hill, arriving at their house in Somerset and racing to the kitchen cupboard and raiding her tub of glace cherries, mornings in their bedroom where Grandad read Winnie the Pooh while Grandma got us Ribeena and chocolate digestives and resting my head on her chest and listening to her heart valve beating.   All wonderful memories.

But one of my fondest memories will always be from last summer. I went to visit Grandma on a gorgeous summers day.  She was getting increasingly nervous about venturing out but it was such a stunning day, I managed to convince her that a quick jaunt would do her good.  I bundled her up and we headed over the road to the most beautiful park and had a wonderful 20 minutes, looking at the flowers and making memories and laughing about how badly I was driving her wheelchair!  It was one of those perfect afternoons when you’re so glad you managed to get it to happen and I could tell she loved every second, as did I.  We took a selfie, which she found hilarious, and now I’m so glad we did as it’s the last picture I took of us together.

GRANDMASo make sure you take the time to tell people you love them. And take the time to be with them and to be crazy occasionally.

Sweet Peas were Grandma’s favourite flower. On my childhood visits to their lovely home in Martock, Somerset, the house would be filled with glass jars of Sweet Peas that my Grandad would lovingly grow for her, knowing they were a favourite.  My garden will be filled with sweet peas this summer, to keep the tradition going and to fill my heart with wonderful memories of a remarkable woman.

She was extra special, my Grandma. I’m glad that she and my equally wonderful Grandad are re-united once more but wow, do I miss her. I still pick up the phone to call her – then it hits me that I’ll never dial that number again. That’s what makes grief so hard.

I’m thrilled for her that she’s moved onto paradise, but I miss her like crazy and I know that now, a part of me will always be missing.

And if I can be anywhere near the woman she was, I’ll be doing OK.

Brenda Elizabeth Hill – she set the bar high and will always be SO loved.

K x




  • Reply Emma April 26, 2015 at 4:34 pm

    She and your Grandad were lovely people. Always loved seeing them xx

    • Reply Katy April 30, 2015 at 2:01 pm

      Ah – such happy memories xx

  • Reply Jennifer Howze April 18, 2015 at 11:01 am

    It’s so easy to forget that the older people in our lives have had rich experiences, and that we need to slow down, talk to them and discover their younger selves. I’m so glad you had time with your grandmother before her death. Lovely post. x

  • Reply Tara April 15, 2015 at 11:16 pm

    One of my only regrets in life is that I left having children so late that they didn’t get to meet my beloved nan. Because she would have utterly adored them and I think their lives would’ve been all the richer for knowing her.
    But it is what it is and I’m so glad I got to have a whole heap of memories with her. Grandparents are so so special x

    • Reply Katy April 16, 2015 at 10:08 am

      I’m SO with you. I would have loved for my Grandad to meet my kids. He would have LOVED them – and they him. xx

  • Reply Ruth April 10, 2015 at 12:23 am

    Beautiful writing Katy, a really stunning tribute to your Gran, who sounds like she was an absolutely magical lady. Love the photo of the two of you, and I’m so pleased you had a lovely Christmas together. Loads of lovely memories to hang on to. Big love to you, so sorry for your loss x

    • Reply Katy April 11, 2015 at 12:43 pm

      Thanks so much. x

  • Reply Siobhan April 9, 2015 at 10:22 pm

    Really lovely post.

  • Reply Emma April 9, 2015 at 8:25 pm

    oh this just broke me. I wrote a post about my nan and then the following day she was taken to hospital and we did the 24 4 hour bedside thing. It hurts so much and I’m glad that I know so much about her life too.

    • Reply Katy April 11, 2015 at 12:42 pm

      Ah – nans are just so special. I guess I was just lucky to have her for so long. Hope it’s getting easier for you x

  • Reply Pinkoddy April 9, 2015 at 8:23 pm

    Your Grandma sounds such a remarkable woman and your proudness oozes out. I am glad you told her how much you admired her and had a wonderful Christmas together, and I am very sorry for your loss xx

    • Reply Katy April 11, 2015 at 12:41 pm

      Thanks so much. Had a feeling we had to be there for Christmas. Now I know why x

  • Reply Emma April 9, 2015 at 3:20 pm

    What a gorgeous tribute to a wonderful lady Katie, she sounds like she was a real character! I love the photo of her as a little girl and laughed out loud at the sewing box story! I spent some time with my Grandparents a couple of days ago, they are definitely one of the things I miss the most living away… xx

    • Reply Katy April 11, 2015 at 12:41 pm

      Ah – the sewing box is one of my fondest memories of her! SO her! x

  • Reply Mum of One April 9, 2015 at 2:31 pm

    Oh Katy, I am sat here in tears. Such a moving and beautiful tribute to clearly a very special lady. I am very sorry for your loss x

    • Reply Katy April 11, 2015 at 12:41 pm

      Thanks so much. I know she’s so much better off now but it doesn’t make it any easier x

  • Reply otilia April 9, 2015 at 1:45 pm

    Such a beautiful post Katie! Beautiful!

  • Reply Clare Goldsack April 9, 2015 at 1:40 pm

    Oh Katy, that made me cry, what a lovely tribute to your Gran. She sounds an amazing lady and I’m sure was emensely proud of you. I can also see where you get your good looks from. Treasure your memories until you meet again xx

    • Reply Katy April 11, 2015 at 12:40 pm

      Thanks lady! Won’t surprise you to know she and my grandad used to keep my BP summer filming schedule and follow what I was up to daily! Sweet things x

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