When things seemed grey, there was one person who Ben Tubby could always rely on to chase away the clouds and brighten up his day. Today, when the sun breaks through the rain, he always looks up for a sign that a very special person, his grandma Margaret, is watching over him.
When Ben and his sister Gemma were little, they loved to snuggle on grandma Margaret’s lap, as she told funny family stories and made everyone laugh.
Margaret brought sunshine into everyone’s life and had spent much of her time caring for other people as a nurse.
Margaret had had a stroke before Ben was born, which left one side of her body paralysed. Despite only having the use of one ‘good’ arm, she was still brilliant at giving hugs.
Happy days: Ben’s grandma and grandad, Margaret and Dennis
Ben’s grandad Dennis was there to look after her and, with a determined focus, Margaret had learned to paint and even volunteered at the local church. She always looked forward to seeing her grandchildren and knew how to make everyone laugh and feel loved and happy.
And as Ben grew older, Margaret became someone he could make laugh, too, with a story of his own, or share his troubles with. Never one to judge, you could always rely on her to listen.
She was a really good listener.
“She was the most caring person I’d ever known,” says Ben, now 23.
“She was a really good listener and always made my troubles feel far away.
“I knew I could talk to her about anything. Whether it was about school, girls, or any other teenage drama, I knew she was there for me.”
On call: Ben’s grandma was such a good listener
When Margaret’s health took a turn for the worse in 2007, the entire family was there for her. Aware that she was close to the end, she reassured them she felt loved, at peace, and content with the life she’d lived.
Not long after, Margaret died peacefully at home.
“Even now,” says Ben as he looks back, “my Grandma continues to be the strongest person I know.”
On the day of Margaret’s funeral Ben’s sister Gemma was keeping Grandad company at their flat in Leigh-on-Sea. Gazing out the window, she pointed out the biggest, brightest rainbow she had ever seen.
“It went from one side of the estuary all the way to the other,” says Ben.
The rainbow was Grandma shining for us.
“Gem thought it was Grandma, shining for us,” adds Ben, who confesses he was not convinced.
“I am not a superstitious person, and didn’t believe Gemma for one second.”
But that all changed a couple of years later, when Ben received his GCSE results.
“Gemma came with me to school that day to pick up my results.
“We went to a nearby cafe to celebrate my marks, and to my surprise there was a huge rainbow shining brightly over us,” he says.
Ben knows Grandma is near whenever a rainbow appears
The coincidences didn’t stop there.
In 2015, Ben competed in the London Triathlon in his grandma’s memory, with donations going towards the Stroke Association.
Although his close friends and family were there for Ben on the day, their support wasn’t the only thing that kept him going.
“I was exhausted, and spotted a ‘human car wash’ in the distance,” he says.
“The cooling, light spray was exactly what I needed in the August heat.
“When I eventually reached the sprayers, I noticed that the combination of sunshine and water formed a beautiful rainbow.
That was Grandma's way of saying: 'Come on Ben, keep going'
“Looking back, that’s what got me through the triathlon. That was my grandma’s way of saying: ‘Come on Ben, keep going’.”
Since then, Ben has spotted rainbows on other significant days, including Gemma’s wedding on the Greek island of Santorini in June 2017.
Ben celebrating sister Gemma's wedding in Santorini
Now, he takes every rainbow he sees as a welcome sign.
‘Grandma’s rainbows’ have even shone at a couple of rugby matches he’s played in, while they’ve also helped convince him that a career change from sports physio to teaching was the right thing to do.
Ben’s a rugby star
“Since becoming a teacher, I’ve noticed rainbows more and more,” he says.
“I think that’s Grandma’s way of saying I’ve made the right career choice.”
Now, on a grey day, the first thing Ben does is look up.
“Whenever I see a rainbow, I know Grandma’s looking down on us and feeling really, really happy – bringing back memories of her that make me feel happy, too.”
##Keeping memories alive – Ben suggests:
Remember their significance in your life
“Try to imaging the advice your loved one would give you if they were still here. Live you life in a way that they would be proud of, because then you are keeping their morals and values alive through you.”
Keep a memento to treasure
“I’ve got a picture hanging above my bed that Grandma painted me. Despite suffering a stroke, my Grandma taught herself to paint and the picture reminds me of her strong mentality – which I try to use in my own life.”
“Grandma wouldn’t want us to be sad, and full of self-pity. She’d want us to remember her laugh, and one-armed hugs that I can still feel today.”