Whitlam Institute

What Matters 2019 Shortlist

What Matters 2019 Shortlist

Memories

Memories

James Silsby

Year 10, Arden Anglican School

A crowded family gathering. We were standing shoulder to shoulder singing happy birthday. The candles flickered with ever word sung. My great grandma was sat behind her three-layered cake. 99 candles stood tall each one representing a year of her life. Her white hair was pulled back with a few stray stands falling into her face. She was always a formal woman, greeting everyone with a kiss on the cheek and inviting them in for tea. She was always happy to talk about anything, even if she didn't know anything about it.

After the cutting and eating the vanilla cake, I went over to personally wish her happy birthday. I asked to sit, and she patted the seat next to her. I followed as she guided me to. She spoke softly to me about all that she has seen and learnt in her life. This was her present to me. Departing her wisdom and knowledge to the younger children of the family. She spoke about fleeing Burma after just having her daughter. (my grandma)

This is what she said. The Japanese controlled the waters and were moving fast throughout Burma without mercy. I just had your grandmother and my husband was enlisted to help the British troops defend. One day, I was out hanging washing. It was a cool day with thick black cloud cover not often seen. A man walked down our gravel path towards the house. When he saw me, he apologised and left me a letter sealed with a wax seal. I knew what it was before I opened it. Then the next few weeks seemed to get darker and darker. We were losing the war and I was forced to leave before the conflict reached me.

At this point her eyes started to water up. I felt so bad making her cry on her birthday. She smiled at me, pulling me in for a hug. She held me tight not saying a word, but I knew she was saying I love you.

5 days later she was hospitalised with the disease known as old age. It felt wrong walking through the stainless white walls of the hospital. Knowing that 5 days ago she was so energetic and lively. It broke me down to tears, I had no feeling in my fingers or toes and every moment felt slow and sluggish. Her room number was 24, she lay in a single white bed against the far wall. Beams of bright sunlight scatted the room. On her bed was a rainbow from the sunlight outside. She smiled and told us to sit down. She gave all of us a kiss on the cheek. Then said that she was going to die soon, and we couldn't do anything to stop it. She was firm with her words showing no sign of weakness. She said to remember the happy times together and not be sad when it happens. Myself, my brother, my sister and my parents were all crying and promising her that we would.

On the 19th of January 2018 my great grand mother died in her sleep. She's 100 this year and we celebrated with a massive family event. Singing happy birthday to her but instead of blowing out the candles we left to burn as a way to remember she is always with us. That's what matters to me the memory of my great grandmother.