Years ago, I can remember my uncle being anxious that he’d get bad news from his doctor and my mom telling him, “Think like a Colclough.” I had overheard this being said in my mom’s family before, but it wasn’t until I was older and battling with my own anxiety that its origin became important to me.
My Nana’s maiden name was Colcough, her married name Galante. According to my Nana, the Colclough family was strong and free of the worry disease. Meanwhile, most everyone in the Galante family is plagued with some sort of mental illness, be it anxiety or depression.
Anytime someone in the Galante clan faced a hardship, my Nana would tell them to stop acting like a worried Galante and start thinking like a Colclough.
You would never know it from her beautiful complexion, petite body, and polished style, but my Nana had more health problems than the average person has in their lifetime. She had diabetes and pernicious anemia; she had to get a quadruple heart bypass after suffering 2 heart attacks; she battled and beat breast cancer; she had mild strokes towards the end of her life; she even had a severe allergy to bees that would cause her to go into anaphylactic shock when stung. The point is that she never gave into fear despite having reason to.
My Nana passed away on August 16, 2013, eight days before her 79th birthday. She lived in my house for the last three years of her life, something I am so grateful for because it meant spending a lot of time together.
On the day of her angel date, I felt calm knowing that she was at peace after rapidly deteriorating. I felt even more calm knowing that I spent that time right by her side.
A couple days before she died, I sat at her bedside and sang “It’s Not Unusual” by Tom Jones while she slept. Anytime she caught me singing around the house, she’d always say “Jessi, was that you singing?!” Even though I’m not sure she could hear me, it only seems right that one of our last memories made was me singing to her.
The morning before she passed away, Nana spoke her last words to me. I saw that she was trying to get out of bed, so I went into her room and told her to stay in bed and that I’d bring anything she needed to her. I can’t quite recall what she responded, but it means something to me that the last thing I heard her say was the last words she voiced aloud in the world.
For the next 24 hours, she slept with little interruption.
That particular week is broken up into vignettes in my memory. One vignette has me in a parking lot looking at the moon sitting in the sky thinking, “Where did she go?”
Another has me sitting in her room going through her makeup bag and thinking about how she picked out all these little things for herself. I’ve never cried harder over cosmetics. I’m tearing up just thinking about my sweet Nana going to the drugstore and picking out all of her favorites.
Another has me looking at the lipstick stained handkerchief that she kept in her purse. All the women in the family took one of her clean handkerchiefs because Nana said all ladies should have one handy, but I took the one she last used because it smelled like her. The scent has faded over the last three years, but her fair colored foundation has stuck around.
I can recount many more moments from that week and I can even piece some together, but I’ll save them for me. Nana used to say, “Life is for the living,” so I try not to dwell on that sad time and instead think about how her hugs felt and the sound of her slippers shuffling around the kitchen floor while pouring her morning orange juice. I try to think like a Colclough in all situations.
After Nana passed, I decided that I wanted to get, “Think like a Colclough” tattooed on me as a reminder to always find the bright side and of course, to honor my favorite lady. One of these years, I will go to the tattoo parlor on her birthday, but this year I’m sticking to writing this post.
Today would be my Nana’s 82nd birthday. I look forward to her birthday as if she’s going to be here to cut cake and open gifts, so the realization that I’ll never do that with her again is harsh. It’s worse when I’m reminded that no one who enters my life in the future will know her, although, I’m determined for them to know who she was to me.
The morning that my parents woke me up with the news that Nana died, I simply responded, “Aw, my angel.”
This post is dedicated to my angel.