Vered, Yael and Yael's Gooney
Shirley Reads to Maya and Yael
יעל מספרת על גוני
Yael Remembers Goony
The English Translation of this Text Appears Below the Hebrew

I had so many ideas about what to write about, so many little events that didn’t happen in real life, but I chose something that was very important to me and my family over the past few years.

I was 12 years old when I was told that my grandmother was ill with cancer. At first, I didn’t really give it much thought but I don’t think I really understood what it meant. I thought she would get through it I didn’t believe that something would hurt her, perhaps because I was too innocent to understand?

She quickly began the chemotherapy treatment, lost her hair, her good mood, she was exhausted and didn’t like to be around lots of people for long periods. These things affected the whole family, everything and every event was thought of twice in order to see if it would be alright for my grandmother.

My grandmother was called Shirley, but the children called her Goony because when my brother Daniel was little it was hard for him to say “granny” so he said “goony”. Daniel was the grandchild closest to her, compared to him I wasn’t very close to her, maybe at times I was jealous of him…

After she began the treatment and the many physical changes began, mental changes began to appear as well, she began to be very impatient with me, said hurtful things to me and I got upset. But my mother always told me to let it go that it wasn’t really her but the disease talking instead of her, so I ignored it each time and I just wanted to believe with all my heart that what my mother said was true.
Slowly, she began to look better and was in a better mood and the disease was cured! The hair grew back the scarf was no longer on her head, the smile came back to her face… But after just a few weeks the cancer returned in another place, after we all finally felt a sense of relief, were full of hope and were so happy that she was cured, that hope was destroyed. This time it was worse - within a few months she was in the hospital every few days, after a few weeks she was in the hospital for 24 hours every week. I always had hope in my heart that she would get well but I understood it was the end when the family came from England to spend the last moments with her. We were in the hospital every day, we ate there, played there, laughed, read, said Shabbat Kiddush as if all of our lives had moved there… We all began to internalise that the end was soon, even very soon.

On one of the days my father came to me and told me that that could be her last night I remember the last time I said goodbye to her at the hospital, she was asleep and everyone kissed her to say goodbye, but when I kissed her on the forehead she suddenly opened her eyes and looked at me, she didn’t recognise me, but she looked at me and it was enough. That night my father did not come home with us but stayed at the hospital when he came home in the morning he told me and my cousin who was sleeping next to me that our grandmother had passed away, my cousin immediately burst into tears and I didn’t. I felt as if I had been prepared in advance for what was going to happen but I still didn’t really get what was going to take place.

The funeral was the next day, it was my first funeral and I was awfully nervous, I didn’t know how I would handle the fact that everyone around me would be crying, adults, children, old people. I think it really sunk in at the moment when everyone began to arrive at the cemetery, suddenly I understood how many people loved her so much and how much she would be missed by all of us. When it came to the moment for me to read something, I just couldn’t I burst into tears and my mother read my bit instead of me. But the worst moment of all was when they threw the earth on the coffin - I saw my aunt crying like I had never in my life seen anyone cry before, then I realised how much I loved the person buried there under the earth.

We went back to my grandfather’s house, during the Shiva we kept trying to absorb what had happened to us during the last two years I thought everyone would be sad at the Shiva but actually everyone laughed and seemed happy, then I understood that we were marking her life and not her death.

Those were especially difficult years for the whole family but we stayed together and supported each other and managed to get through the hard experience together.

Yael Seligman

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