This morning the Busschots family became a little bit poorer, as someone we all loved, admired, and respected passed from this earth into the realm of our fond memories.

Photo of Emma Busschots-Marien Role models are important, and I’ve been blessed to have many wonderful family members to fulfil that role.

My grand mother Emma showed me the importance of seeing the good in everyone, and of always trying to see things from their point of view. Nothing confused her more than not being able to understand why someone would do something. She would try and try to understand how some horrible thing could make sense, and when faced with uncertainty, assume the best, giving everyone the benefit of the doubt, and never assuming the worst.

The most inspiring example of a true loving relationship in my life is undoubtedly the life-long partnership Emma had with my grandfather Jules (✝2015). They built a relationship of equals, with mutual respect, long before that was the done thing. They never demurred from showing their affection in public, and right into their 80s they continued to hold hands like honeymooners. I’m obviously biased, but I think my father and his brother are testament to their parenting skills too. I know for sure myself and my brothers were blessed with the best grandparents any kid could ask for.

The moment I truly realised how ahead of their time my grand parents were was when I came out to them. Stereotypically they were of a generation that should at least have needed some time to digest the idea, to figure out how they felt about having a gay grandson, but no, not my grand parents! They only had one concern — how was I? Was I OK? Had I found someone to share my life with? As it happens, I had, and they were both delighted, and eager to meet this new member of the family. They made it abundantly clear to me that it doesn’t matter who I love, they were simply happy that I’d found someone to love. They also insisted I not let any prejudiced people get me down — I had nothing to be ashamed of.

Getting to spend a week living with Granny and Grandad in the Waterford mountains was the highlight of many of my childhood summers. We never did anything traditionally exciting, we did much much better things! We hiked up the mountains with picnics, we tended Granny’s beautiful, peaceful, and park-scaled garden, and we played in the river, re-arranging the boulders to re-route the water through channels of our construction.

We also did the mundane but wonderful things like harvest and prepare vegetables. I had the luxury of growing up in a world where dinner could be literally in the ground in the morning, and on my plate looking and tasting delicious that evening! Mind you, I’m not sure I ever quite got over the shock of being ask to help harvest nettles for dinner. I’d assumed ‘nettle soup’ was some kind of nickname — nope, as I found out first-hand, nettle soup is soup made of nettles! In case you’re wondering, it’s delicious, and apparently very healthy too!

I don’t know if my deep love of the natural world is in my nature — but I do know it was nurtured and cultivated by my grandmother. She never tired of answering all the questions I peppered her with about flowers and trees, and she loved sharing her new finds with me. An afternoon hunting for rarities in garden centres with Granny was the best kind of child-hood treasure hunt 🙂

The first thing I did this morning after I got the news was put my coat on and go for a walk. I took the shortest path off the Maynooth pavements and into nature I could find. When I need to get away from things, or to get some perspective, or to just re-charge my batteries, that’s what I do. I think that’s what most of the Busschots men do actually, and I know that’s what my Grandmother would have done.