Rachel is Dot’s first-born grandchild and gave this touching reflection at her funeral on 6th June 2016.
A Reflection on the life of Dot James by Rachel Ploegsma
For those that don’t know me, I’m Rachel, Dot’s eldest granddaughter. Today I would like to share some special memories of my grandmother who we called Nana, and her great-grandchildren called Nana-the-Great.
When my oldest daughter was born, my sister Miriam, coined the name Nana-the-Great instead of Great Nana. Everyone else had a Great Nana but ours was special so we had a Nana-the-Great. This was a lasting term of endearment that Nana was especially proud of.
And great she was for so many reasons, including her gentle nature, kindness, acceptance of all people, along with an attitude to life to simply get on with things without complaint. Sometimes I think how amazing it would be to emulate all these qualities.
Something most relatives and close friends here today can relate to is how Nana always remembered our birthdays. She had a unique way of making each person feel special after carefully selecting the words for each card. Hers was usually the first card to arrive and always by mail even if she was seeing you for your birthday. Nana knew the exact number of grandchildren she had, as well as the ever changing number of great-grandchildren who she was always proud to tell people about.
As a child, my sisters and I spent many weekends staying in Healesville with Nana and Grandie. These were happy times where we were given money to spend at the shops, which usually culminated in us having enough provisions for a midnight feast. Nana would spend time lovingly brushing our hair and always obliging when we asked for a longer hair brush. She would supply us with fruit loops for breakfast and cook pikelets for lunch and marvel at how many we could eat in one sitting. We would giggle away when Nana would iron our socks and undies yet enjoyed the warmth of putting on these freshly ironed garments.
There was a huge a tree in Nana’s backyard where I’m sure most of the grandchildren would remember climbing and making their own fun and games amongst the branches. One time we even had a family Christmas gathering under the tree. Much time was also spent at Queens Park just down the road, and being so fond of this place I chose to have my 11th birthday party there.
A special treat was to take a ride on the ‘diesel’ train that ran from Healesville to Lilydale, and scare each other as the train went through the tunnel. Nana enjoyed watching the rabbits scamper along the tracks and loved pointing out varies sights along the way.
Sometimes on these weekends, we attended church services which I believe were held in this very church. Nana would provide so many of her handmade items to the church fetes such as her fruit jams, her lacy coat hangers, lavender bags and potpourri bags made from her own flowers from her well kept garden.
One thing I do still feel bad about though was a time when Nana and Grandie took us to the local swimming pool. I was a fairly competent swimmer, whilst Nana was very hesitant around water. This resulted in us only being allowed to swim in the shallow pool, much to my annoyance. One time, and probably the last time we were taken to the pool, I took it upon myself to swim down to the forbidden deep end. As I was swimming I saw the panicked look on Nana’s face and pretended I couldn’t hear her calling out to me. When I reached the end, I decided to hold my breath for as long as possible at the bottom of the pool and act as if I couldn’t swim. From the bottom of the pool I could see both Nana and Grandie leaning over the edge. Needless to say I was in trouble and must apologise to the subsequent grandchildren who probably weren’t taken to the pool.
I really also need to apologise to Nana for one other thing. When Nana was offered a glass of wine as a bottle was being shared, Nana would always say “No thank you, I’ve never put alcohol to my lips!” We all knew this, but also knew that Nana loved to be included and was always offered a glass just like anybody else. What Nana perhaps should have said was that “I have never knowingly put alcohol to my lips!” At my 40th birthday party, Nana came up to me with a glass of punch in her hand, remarking how lovely it was and “What do you put in it?”. I didn’t have the heart to let her know about my secret ingredient, except that it was noticed that at the age of 89 she took to the dance floor and karaoke machine like someone half her age.
For the last 21 years my husband and I have run a football tipping competition from home, and from its beginning Nana has always been a member, including this current season. In the earlier years Nana wasn’t necessarily an avid football supporter despite always having a loyalty to Footscray, now known as the Western Bulldogs. As the years progressed, when I would either ring or see Nana to put in her tips, she would enter a tip before offering an explanation of why she was tipping a particular team. She would use terms like “they are injury plagued”, “not enough inside 50’s” and “the coach has them rattled”. It soon became apparent that Nana was keeping herself well informed and when I asked her how she knew this she said “Well on Thursdays I stay up late and watch the Footy Show!” Having never won a major prize in the competition, I felt Nana loved just being a part of things and being included in what the family was doing. Interestingly, Nana’s chosen password when the competition went online was ‘Nana-the-Great’.
Nana will leave a lasting legacy that will shine on through the generations. One grandson described Nana as being ‘accidently inspirational’ after she inspired him with her love of fine fabrics, sewing and corsetry. My sister Catherine tells how her passion for flowers was ignited by watching Nana arrange her beautiful floral arrangements for the mantelpiece. For others it was her love of God and her quietly encouraging ways that inspired them. Another grand-daughter mentioned the endless love in her heart. This love extended to our spouses and friends who also described Nana a kind, gracious and elegant lady.
Finally, I would like to thank my mother Del, for overseeing Nana’s care for the last 6 years whilst she was in residence at Monda Lodge.
It would be remiss not to mention that incredible smile that captured every essence of Nana’s happiness whenever a loved one walked into her room. Even on the morning that I said my final goodbye to Nana, she still mustered one of her smiles. This smile is how I will always remember my amazingly kind-hearted Nana. Thankyou.
Rest in Peace Nana
6th June 2016