my grandmother, margaret holmes, lived an incredibly rich life for 100 years: she was born into white australian privilege, had an excellent education, travelled the world & was happily married for more than 50 years, raising 6 children. she had many friends & never wanted for anything. she could have been content with all of this & enjoyed a leisurely, comfortable life - but from an early age she was keenly aware of the injustices of the world & chose to use her time & resources to work towards making the world a better place.
at first she was actively involved with the student christian movement and in particular christian pacifism; later she established the NSW branch of the Women's International League for Peace & Freedom, becoming a leader in peace and human rights issues, for which she was made a member of the order of australia in 2001. the 1960s was when she really came into her own as an activist - organising protests against the vietnam war, against nuclear weapons, for aboriginal land rights and for women's rights. she intensely lobbied politicians and other notable figures, earning herself an ASIO file several inches thick, & at times the family's phone was tapped.
letter-writing was one of granny's most powerful tools, & i have strong childhood memories of her exclaiming loudly & indignantly about something she'd just read in the paper then immediately leaping up & grabbing paper & pen to dash off an articulate letter to the appropriate person. if you know me, you'll know that immediate action is something i've inherited from my grandmother - don't just talk about it, do it, & do it now. another strong childhood memory is the rear view of granny's mini - a brightly coloured patchwork of stickers demanding the closure of pine gap, promoting WILPF, suggesting the airforce should hold a cake stall to raise money for new planes and so on. granny fought seriously on all these issues but always kept her sense of humour; she loved a good slogan or a theatrical demonstration.
i was in istanbul when i heard from my aunt that granny had had a fall & was in hospital with a broken hip. it seemed like this was "it" - she was given a hip replacement but didn't have the will to carry on, & why should she, at 100 years old? so i was prepared for her death, & i know that granny also was. i don't think she had many (if any) regrets about her life, apart from not achieving world peace ; ) but she contributed so much, & got to see a lot too. in february 2008, while i was the granny-sitter for a week or so, she asked me to wake her up uncharacteristically early (8.30am) in time to see the live broadcast of kevin rudd publicly apologising to the indigenous people for the injustices they have suffered as a result of the colonisation of australia. this was a small but hugely significant step in the slow road to reconcilliation, & granny was delighted to have lived long enough to see this historic event finally happen.
she also lived long enough to read my thesis, which she understood quite a lot more than my mother; i'm honoured that she read it, & that even at the age of 99 & with almost no real experience of the internet, she could imagine cyberformance. but that's the kind of woman granny was - she could imagine anything, even a world without war & without injustice & suffering. if you can imagine it, then anything is possible.
I'm so sorry for your loss, even after such a long and good life, its sad to lose someone so dear. This is a beautiful, moving tribute, which made me wish I'd known Margaret. She sounds an extraordinary woman, which is not surprising considering her two extraordinary granddaughters who I am honoured to know as friends. I am grateful for the part Margaret played in changing the world to a more peaceful and just place. Her actions did make a difference and I believe there will be a peaceful world for our descendents thanks to people like her.
thanks, meliors; & yes it is still sad, especially for me to be so far away from the rest of the family at this time. but i'll remember her from her birthday party in january & from all the time i was able to spend with her in recent years.