Remembering Grandad Tanya

Russell Smith, affectionately known by his grandchildren as Grandad Tanya, died in early May during the height of the Coronavirus pandemic. With restrictions in place around funerals and travel, it meant that his loved ones were unable to say goodbye in the way they would have wanted to.

His granddaughter Tamar Dutton, 25, said:

“Grandad Tanya was a brilliant man and very much at the heart of our family. He has been unwell for nine years with Alzheimer’s and was being cared for at home by my Nanna, who is also in her 80’s.

“In March, doctors spoke to my Mum to say it was time to consider palliative care for Grandad. Unfortunately this coincided with the first lockdown, meaning we couldn’t visit him at home. He lived in Yorkshire, so some of my cousins who were close by were able to wave to him through the window and we passed messages to him via my Uncle, as he was unable to speak on the phone.

“With support from his local hospice, Grandad Tanya died at home in May, with my Nanna at his side. It was very difficult not being able to say goodbye and to know his family were unable to visit him at the end.”

Tamar and her family were able to plan a funeral for her Grandad, but the restrictions meant that very limited numbers were allowed in the church for the service, which took place in Rotherham.

Tamar continued:

“Grandad Tanya had nine grandchildren, so at his funeral, our aunties and uncles went inside with Nanna and the grandchildren stood outside. There was supposed to be a live stream for us to watch but unfortunately this didn’t work. It was so strange to be all stood outside, socially distanced and unable to comfort each other. Instead, we played songs from the order of service on Spotify, as a way to try and be part of the service as it was happening. We made the best of what was a very upsetting situation.

“After the funeral, our immediate family held an outdoor wake. We sat in a field in our separate household groups, reading Grandad’s poems and talking about our memories of him. It was low-key and sophisticated, just like him, and I think he would have approved.

“We are a very close family and usually get together as much as possible. It felt so unnatural to have distance between us at such a difficult time and it definitely made it harder to grieve. I just felt numb, and I know it will hit me harder once we are able to be together again, but without Grandad Tanya with us.”

Tamar plans to honour her Grandad’s memory by taking part in St Oswald’s Light up a Life remembrance service this Christmas. She will light a candle in her window and watch the online service on Sunday 6th December, along with thousands of others remembering those they love and miss.

Find out more about Light up a Life at

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