My Nana Oliver

Grief can be the garden of compassion. If you keep your heart open through everything, your pain can become your greatest ally in your life’s search for love and wisdom. – Rumi

When I was six years old, I remember when Pa Ray passed away suddenly, there was a huge big, black thunderstorm which rolled over Foster North where the dark sky was lit with bright lightening. Dad and I were waking back together and I remember saying to him that Pa Ray wasn’t happy with going and he didn’t want leave Nana behind. My heart knew. That evening was my first encounter with death and grief. Though I was little I understood the impact that this had on my family especially my Dad. My Dad loved Pa Ray as did my family.

Over my thirty-three years of life, I have unfortunately experienced death and the uncomfortable emotions of grief, sadness, anger and hurt when pets, friends, family and loved ones have passed away. Each time I handled these differently and not always healthiest or the safest. Sometimes I ended up hurting myself even more because I couldn’t handle these emotions. Instead I bottled them up like a ticking bomb going off inside of me. Bottling up these emotions didn’t help me and I was living proof, my health change, my personality changed and I always kept ‘busy’ trying to deny my body what it was feeling. This time was going to be different.

This week my soulmate, my beautiful best friend, my Nana, Elise Oliver passed away suddenly. My Nana was one extraordinary woman and someone who I loved more than anything in this world. Our friendship was one which I have never experienced in this life time and I knew from a young age that we shared a very special bond. Her crisp ironed shirts, her blue denim jeans, her comfory loafers, her manicured fingers, her oversized silver jewellery and yes that beautifully set grey hair. Nana always turned heads and stood out from the crowd, well thats when you could see her. Her small stature of 4’9 and a petite size, you could miss her in a flash but she would always be heard with her quick wit and loud laugh.

On Wednesday morning, while meditating, Nana kept coming past in my thoughts and when I finished I rang my Dad, to see if she was ok, he was in about to get in the back of the ambulance with her. I knew something wasn’t right – my heart sank. Nana suffered a stroke and she passed away peacefully on Thursday afternoon at the wonderful age of 93.  On Friday morning, while walking home from yoga, I was over come by emotions and started to cry uncontrollably in the street. I sat down in the gutter to feel what I was feeling and as I did an old Chinese lady sat down beside me and put her hand on my back and said I’d be ok. Over the next few days I didn’t hold back and if I needed to cry I cried, if I need to scream I screamed and if I needed to laugh I laughed. For the first time in my life I didn’t fight these emotions instead I let myself feel and experience them as they came up. The best decision I made was to return home (as short as it was) to be with my family and say good bye to my soul mate.

What I admired about Nana was she always positive even in hard times. She looked on the bright side of life with her positive attitude, mindset and well sometimes stubbornness all worked in her favour. Every morning she thanked ‘who ever was above’ that made it through the night, did her breathing routine and her little yoga exercises to get blood, body and mind moving. It was her little morning rituals, positivity and and her wine spritzer in the evening which played

Every visit, every moment I have spent with her was the greatest gift. I loved hearing the stories from her childhood which were spent at the beach especially playing in the sand. The admiration she had for her father and the stories from the Camberwell deli. The endless stories of love that she had for my Dad, her grand children and great children was enough to warm anyones soul and the photographic evidence was always scattered throughout her house.

Last month, when Nana and I were sitting in the lounge room together, it was the first time I realised just how similar we were. Through all her hardships, toxic relationships and pain she always pulled herself through and did it with such grace, love and dignity.  She never gave up, she was courageous, strong and resilient.


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Thank you Nana for teaching me what love it, for always encouraging too get out of my comfort zone and how to lead life with an open heart and mind. To stand up for what I believe in and not give in even when a man is standing at the door with a shot gun!

Thank you for inspiring me and giving me the love for my arts and crafts, for teaching me how to knit and sew on buttons and knitting my little blue cardigan. For taking the time to make my walnut, vegemite and lettuce sandwiches and then cutting them into little triangles, for icing my perfect little vanilla cupcakes and cooking my little lamb chops so the ends wouldn’t burn. I’ll treasure our lunch dates, our endless chats about life, history, your incredible journey and advice for finding my future husband. I’ll always remember our walks through Port Macquaire, Lake Cathie, Laureton, along the beach, the gardens and on the track at home as you held my arm.

Thank you my perfectly wrapped gifts at the end of my bed and surprise handwritten notes under my pillow. Thank you for showing me that door knobs are the most underused space in a house and that they are great how to hang anything and everything off. That brightly tied ribbon around anything will make it look pretty but most of all for showing me just how important it is to treasure the little things life.

You have instilled your values of love, generosity with in me and taught me that is a privilege to be a feisty, unique, independent, strong woman, with amazing style, great hair, endless love, gratitude and appreciation for just how great our family is.

My life will never be the same, I will always cherish my thirty-three years that I had with you and I promise I will look after Dad the way he loved and looked after you.

I love you as big as the sky and some. ❤

Elise May Oliver: 12th March 1923 – 25th August 2016
Enjoy your wine with Pa Ray x

– Sully


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An artist, a cook, an inspirer, a writer and a yoga lover who is traveling the world.

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