Valerie was a sweet, kind and loving woman – full of affection and unconditional love in the bucket load. She was generous and hospitable, welcoming people into her heart and her home. She was a wonderful friend to many, but to me, she was my grandmother – and the most incredible one at that.
My grandma was a warm, caring and affectionate lady with a great sense of humour. She would make everyone laugh with her stories and quick wit. Together with my mum, we spent many hours talking and putting the world to right. She was a wonderful listener and so full of love - “I love you to the moon and back” she would say often to me.
Incredibly empathetic, my grandma always found great purpose in helping people in need. This was certainly evident as my grandmother kindly opened her home to a 17 year old girl with mental health problems who was living in foster care. This girl had no one, and my grandmother welcomed her into her family with open arms for over 30 years.
My grandma was an inspiration to me and was a huge part of my journey to where I am today. She was a huge animal lover and encouraged me to found Annies Trust, an animal welfare charity that helps animals in crisis - she loved seeing the animals that we had helped. She also loved clothes and used to knit me jumpers as a baby and continued to knit and donate clothes to people in need until her hands became too arthritic. She took so much pleasure watching me dress up when in princess outfits when I was young to following the trends as a teenager.
Every teenager suffers from self-esteem issues on varying scales, and I was no different. I was extremely critical of my own body, my skin and my looks, and I looked to clothes to make me happier with my appearance. When I had critical moments, my grandma refused to let me look in the mirror critically – she was a huge advocate for body positivity. My grandma was a size 18 and the most beautiful lady! She was stunning and she loved her body, her cellulite, her stretch marks and her wrinkles. She would always say that your face tells the story of who you are and anyone without wrinkles hasn’t had a good life. She was proud of her “imperfections” and this made her more beautiful.
In the last few years of her life, my grandma bravely fought her battle with Alzheimer’s and heart problems. Devastatingly, in August 2020 my grandmother lost this battle and she passed away.
My grandmother was loved by many. She always had time for people chatting and laughing with them and she always knew how to brighten their day and make them feel loved. She treated everyone with kindness and patience and her outlook on life was inspiring. If you were lucky to spend more than five minutes in her presence, you were forever changed. I am so grateful to have had a grandmother who embraced each day with such optimism.
The ’Valerie Sweater’ is named in honour of my grandmother Valerie.
The fact that you are no longer here will always cause me pain. But you’re forever in my heart until we meet again.