Lessons learned from Nan on the art of compelling storytelling

For many years I would visit my grandmother, who was ‘Nan’ to me but ‘Betty’ to many, at her humble home in Newport where I would regale tales from the media and talk about anything that was happening in her neighbourhood, which she called “the real news”.

Our conversations would often begin with “Nan, do I have a story for you…” and inevitably end with her opinion on the story, which never needed to be prompted. Nan would also tell me stories, and as the years went on some of her stories sounded more and more familiar.

In some of the toughest years in my life Nan was always there, and at times when the stories were either short, sounding too good to be true or there was “no news” to report, Nan never stopped asking me whether I wanted a cuppa and if I had a story for her.

There is one story that will always be our favourite. One day I visited Nan to talk about ghosts and about a recent personal experience. I expected Nan to ask me if I had lost my marbles, so I was surprised when the story sparked interest and many questions.

Seated at the kitchen table, one of the questions Nan asked me was whether I remembered what the ghost looked like. Her face lit up very quickly when I described a strapping young man who was wearing what appeared to be an old-style military uniform.

Nan raced off from the kitchen table, returning shortly after with a photo, which was later revealed as being stored somewhere in a bedroom. The photo Nan showed me was of a man who looked strikingly similar to the man I described from my story, her late husband.

You might be thinking and questioning whether I had found the photo prior to the story. I cannot explain the story or the story that followed, where Nan told me about the time she saw her late husband too. I felt somewhat relieved to learn that he is a frequent flyer.

It is one of many feelings felt in recent days, after learning Nan had passed peacefully at 4pm on Saturday. Nan did not want to leave. There have been many moments over recent weeks where I thought Nan was leaving, but then “Lazarus” returned.

Nan had always been regarded as a tough woman and some of her children recently saw just how tough she was, but Nan was fighting a losing battle to the inevitable end of life as we know it, though more and more I am thinking it might be the start of something new.

I was told some of Nan’s last words included “Tell David I have a story for him” and since then I have been wondering whether she already has plans to cash in some of her own frequent flyer points. Whichever way, I am sure Nan will one day get to tell me her story.

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