Elders and Betters.

When I left New Zealand more than ten years ago I left with something not knowing its true value. That something was the relationship I had built with my grandparents. You see I am one of these fortunate people who came into the world getting to know all four of my grandparents. For more than twenty five years I had access to the very people who had seen it all and were in the unique position of having all the time in the world to share their memories with me. As a child I couldn’t possibly know the lucky position I was in but once I was in Europe on a permanent basis I realised what I was missing.

Just months after arriving in Europe I lost my maternal grandfather Jack Felton.  I knew the day would arrive when I would have to adjust to life without him but it still seemed so sudden. I had at least twenty years talking to Jack about aircraft and engineering and had I not been distracted by Telecomms and writing I may well have followed his footsteps. Jack retired when I was two and he had a ready-made little grandson that worshipped his every word.  I soon knew the make, model, capacity and speed of every commercial aircraft in operation. I knew a lot about snooker,  professional golf and lawn bowls after our conversations also. Whilst there was inevitability when losing a grandparent, losing my paternal grandmother was a complete shock to all in my family.

Hazel Eileen Muir passed away a decade ago on the 16th of October 2002. She was 74 years old. While some would say that is a fair life the way she left was far from fair. On a walk with the Bishopdale Ramblers my grandmother lost her footing and fell thirty metres to a creek below. A strong woman, she survived the fall but injuries sustained and the shock had her slip away before the rescue helicopter arrived. I had been in Europe for a year at that time and felt a helplessness as I couldn’t be there to support my grandfather and my father (Hazel’s  eldest son).

Me, Jasmine & Grandma – Hazel Muir.

When I finally arrived back in New Zealand I made sure to visit my grandparents and spent Christmas day 2003 with my maternal grandmother – Nora Felton (nee Toye). I also visited my Granddad down in Christchurch that same summer.  I remember Granddad spoke fondly of his last holiday with Hazel. It was trip to Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore and he brought out an album with a journal he’d written and photographs.

In 2004 Nora Toye passed away peacefully. She had always been a fighting fit individual so I like to think she was just ready to go and be with Jack. In two years I had learned the reality that the time you spend with grandparents is to be treasured. I was to be spoiled by my Granddad when he visited Ireland in 2009. I took great pride in showing him around Ireland with his Great-granddaughter – Hazel Muir. Paul Muir senior lives in Christchurch and is the father of nine children, the veteran of three heart attacks and has lived through the earthquakes that hit Canterbury badly in recent years.

While this seems a sad recollection. It is anything but. I am simply reminding myself how fortunate I was to have quarter of a century with all of my grandparents and all they had to offer.  If you are someone who was not born into that position it doesn’t matter.  There are people of our grandparents’ generation throughout the community. I would say do your best to talk to them because you will learn more from them than they will from you.  Listen to them – They are your elders and betters.

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