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Taurus Rising: A Half-Glaswegian Bigyin Gurns Aboot His Influential, Idolised, Immortalised Granda

In Loving Memory of James Murray (1924-2011)

By Orion J. ZedPublished 7 months ago 8 min read
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The constellation of Taurus (Credit to Wikimedia Commons)

Right from the start, I knew I was special. Granted, this notion was merely inferred in the wee years of my story, though a certain father figure, one who had a profound effect on the person I became, made sure I knew it.

***

This doting began decades before I was a twinkle in my parents' eyes, in ways that'd blow the minds of any with an iota of belief in the impossible.

At the tail end of a world in conflict, James Murray and Ellen Sadler Hamilton of Motherwell, Scotland, became husband and wife on the 3rd November, the day after the bride's own birthday. To think that, despite the fear and torment that permeated every corner of the globe, this couple who were truly, madly, deeply in love with one another chose to say their vows and galvanise them in holy matrimony, shows just the sort of people they were: courageous, devoted, and unfailingly kind. Zodiac-wise, Gran was a Scorpio, and Granda a Taurus, their asterims at opposite sides of the night sky, yet their connection indellible, resilient, and empowering.

As the years went by, their family grew bigger, as did the love they shared, even in the wake of an unexpected fifth child, the largest gap between any of their weeyins' births, withstanding many trials and tribulations that eventually led the whole clan to move half a world away, and ultimately settling in a remote, yet spectacular, sea-gurt island to the distant south (You may have heard of it... perchance, does Australia ring any bells?).

***

It was here that their youngest child married and started a family of her own, giving birth to two healthy baby boys in very close proximity to Gran and Granda's anniversary... so close, in fact, that my birthday happens to be the exact same day; when you take into account my late grandmother's impossibly accurate and inescapably present psychic gifts, ones that now run through the whole bloodline, it kinda makes One wonder if the date chosen for hers and Granda's wedding was planned well in advance.

The evening of my birth is a tale of hilarity, endearment, and more than a wee bit o' the trademark Scottish stubbornness, so much so that it's worthy of a separate entry in its own right, so for now let's skip ahead to later that night, when Granda held me in his arms as a "tiny" newborn (in fact I was one of the largest neonates on record in the town, and featured in the local newspaper, but I digress); I didn't find out until years later that, of all their grandchildren, my brother and I are the only two who were held by Granda at our respective births, which is enough to make this Bigyin start gurnin'.

My earliest memories of Granda are a testament to my devotion to him, and of the powerful bond we shared. Once every week, he'd take my hand as we walked to the local shopping centre, with the highlight of each and every visit being marked with a pokey hat (or, in plain English, a "soft serve ice cream cone"). Birthdays and Christmases saw my brother and I spoilt, and many vital life skills and behavioural quirks were taught and/or picked up by Gran and Granda: I rarely use a knife when eating a meal, like the former; and I learnt to tie my shoelaces from the latter.

***

Given their influence on my early years, it's perhaps fitting that the first loss of a loved one I'd ever experienced was Gran, who passed away in a hospital bed surrounded by loved ones, in the wee hours of... my father's birthday. Yup, once again a major life-shaking family event coincided with another key family event. Once? Fair enough. Twice? This alone has aided in my perspective that nothing ever happens by chance, and given the "weirdness" already present in our lives, I've always been so open to the most extraordinary impossibilities that I'd give Alice a run for her cake!

Every visit to Granda's was marked by a particular variety of flower, known by many as a "bird of paradise", with a flock of them located in the short pathway to his and Gran's tiny cottage, with this gorgeous plant forever holding a special place in my heart, and associated with his memory long after his passing (more on that later). My brother and I were influenced in many ways by our grandfather well into our teens: he a deeply ingrained interest in Big Band, smooth jazz, and the adventures of Ian Fleming's James Bond, aka Agent 007; and I the wondrous tales of his younger days, with his recount and manner of speech no doubt inspiring and evolving my already-acute passion for stories in any form, expressed via any medium.

I knew that one day, the good times would end. My Gran was lost almost too soon in my childhood, long before I'd begun to realise the gifts that were passed down to me via my mother, and thus leaving me to discover much of it alone; though I'm fortunate in the loss of loved ones never truly feeling like they're "gone," thus easing the grieving process much more than so many are afforded, it was clear that Granda would eventually pass on, and though death is never in my mind "the end," I was determined to cherish each and every moment spent with him, to celebrate while he was still living, and to tuck away the idea that "one day he'll be gone."

***

Granda's loss is to this day one of the most powerful shake-ups of the family to date. Following a fall that led to his being found unconscious inside his cottage, my grandfather's mental health took a sudden and devastating nosedive; in a relatively short duration of time, he went from a fully capable and self-sufficient individual to one who required constant care and supervision, with his memories and many of his tales now left vague and unclear, and a few potential then-unknown knowledge of our family history suddenly undisclosed (if even a wee bit credible).

A few weeks before his 87th birthday, after a rapid spiral into severe dementia, Granda passed away one evening, surrounded by loved ones. Years prior, he'd made a few requests for his funeral and wake: No tears, only a jovial celebration of his life, marked by his favourite song, "When The Saints Go Marching In. Try as they might, Granda's funeral was the usual sombre affair, though they did play his requested song; I didn't attend the funeral, however, and have never done so, with only a deeply ingrained impression that "I mustn't attend such a sad occasion" as the closest thing to a "viable" reason... perhaps another gift from Gran?

Last week, while staying with my parents in the country, and far from the place I now call home as a fully matured adult, I chose to go for a walk in the nearest township. Deciding on an arbitrary direction, I started walking, not knowing what would happen, where I would find myself, or why I felt such a strong tug in that direction. After settling on a particular point in the distance, following a straight, heath-grown pathway between evenly-spaced conifers, I proceeded to the point in the far distance. What did I find there? A mound of earth with a single bird-of-paradise growing in it.

***

Suddenly recalling an image of Granda in my mind, and feeling every bit of the emotion I'd experienced in the brief span as part of each other's stories, I felt a strong, overwhelming urge to cry, and with the saline burn of tears already welling in my eyes... I let it happen. I allowed it to happen. I gave myself permission to open the floodgates, to allow the cascade of feels to translate into streams of blood plasma, carving trails along my cheeks like bolts of lightning, leaving my sideburns and wiry facial hair drenched.

I cried... and cried... and cried some more... For the first time in my life, I allowed myself a luxury so many in mourning take for granted, those who feel the pain of loss in ways unfathomable by myself. To so many, loss is forever, and those lost are gone from their lives, with the way they cope taking myriad forms, and the eventual closure leaving wounds nonetheless; in my case, it was never an option, since my perspective since the tender age of eight is in death not being an ending, but a transition to the next chapter, and what some call an "ending," I analogise as "End of Act 1."

This is the closest I've ever felt to the grieving process, as so often I find myself skipping right to the Acceptance stage. In this case, it was a sort of "Acceptance, Vol. II," as the release of emotions upon seeing that lone flower, atop that tiny mound of rain-drenched soil and pebbles, on that drizzly winter morn of silvery-grey skies and cool breeze, felt like lifting a weight from my shoulders, one of which I was unaware in the first place, and it honestly felt... good. Not sadness, not loss, but pure, vivid joy.

***

Rather than an overwhelm of pain and anguish at the absence of one I still regard as a father figure to this day, I was awash with nothing but the same sense of endearment, admiration, and wonder from my youth, and that's as close as I could possibly get to mourning a loved one. Others wept for the loss of James Murray, expressing their glumness and misery in defiance of his wish for a celebration of his life, and that's okay; you can't really control the way you feel anymore than you can shoo away a wet and windy day.

The way I see it, I'm lucky in one regard: Where so many recall his memory via the sad lens of his downward spiral, with most claiming he was taken long before his deathbed and defining him as "another victim of dementia," I get to look back on him fondly, my memories and emotions ones of the joy, wonder, and curiosity of a precocious, imaginative, and loving boy.

And that is one of the greatest gifts left by my dear Granda. I love you... 🎺

humanity
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About the Creator

Orion J. Zed

You’ve heard of the Many Worlds Theory? Well, Orion J. Zed has imagined hundreds of worlds in his creative endeavours, many of which are documented in some form.

He rarely refers to himself in the third person other than “About Me” sections.

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