The act of saying goodbye to a loved one often begins well before a funeral or burial.

For many people, the days and hours at the end of a loved one’s life are especially poignant, and involve holding a loved one’s hand, having meaningful conversations, affirming strong family bonds and making amends for past mistakes and misjudgements.

Those are moments that Jamieson Noutsatos, 18, didn’t get to share with his beloved yiayia Lambia, who originated from Akrata, Peloponnese, and migrated to Australia in 1961.

Lambia married the love of her life Dimitri Noutsatos, and settled with him in Melbourne, where they were blessed to have two children, four grandchildren and three great grandchildren.

In her early 70s, Lambia started having health problems, and – as a result – she went in and out of hospital for almost a decade.

Unfortunately, those health issues, along with the medication she was taking, contributed to her passing.

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Sadly, her Adelaide-based beloved grandson Jamieson was not by her side in her final hours, and did not have the chance to say his last ‘goodbye’.

“When my yiayia was hospitalised for what would be her final time, I sincerely hoped to see her again on the basis that she had been in hospital so many times previously,” the Year 12 student, said, unaware at the time of what would follow.

“When we were told that the end was drawing near, the family decided that my father, yiayia’s son, Nicholas, should be there by her side first to offer his support and help his father, and sister while looking after our yiayia. We booked his airline ticket, and because I was studying for my final Year 11 exams, we agreed that my mum and I would fly to Melbourne as soon as my exams were completed so that if things got worse, we could at least spend some precious moments with yiayia and say our final goodbyes,” Jamieson said.

Sadly, Lambia’s health deteriorated quicker than what the doctors anticipated, and Jamieson’s father flew to Melbourne a few days later, thinking his wife and son would be able to fly across in the following days.

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The young man and his mother stayed back home getting daily updates on yiayia’s health.

Very soon, however, it became apparent that the end was approaching, and the family discussed the possibility of flying to Melbourne so that they could all unite for the last time and assist with the funeral arrangements.

The call

On 15 November 2020, Jamieson received the news that “yiayia had fallen asleep in the Lord’s Arms”.

The house fell into silence with the only noise being soft sobbing.

Jamieson called his father back asking if he could be put on speaker phone to offer a prayer for his beloved grandmother.

“I took my place in front of our iconostasi and began to recite my prayer with much emotion, lament, but also hope in the Resurrection.

This is something I truly needed to do seeing that I couldn’t be there with the family.”

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“I didn’t make the funeral”

Lambia’s funeral was set for Thursday, 19 November.

As this day was also the day Jamieson was to sit for an exam, the family approached his school asking if there was any chance of getting a temporary exemption.

The school was more than happy to accommodate the needs of the family and made the appropriate amendments.

The only thing left was to book airline tickets but the next day, South Australia went into what was initially planned to be a seven-day lockdown, which ended up lasting three days.

At that point Jamieson came to terms with the fact that he wouldn’t be able to say goodbye to his grandmother.

“Before yiayia passed, Melbourne was still in lockdown and despite the strict restrictions, the staff at the Bellbird Private Hospital, in Blackburn, allowed my father and auntie and the other grandchildren to visit and say goodbye. They treated her and our family with the outmost dignity and respect, and we are forever grateful to them for that.”

On the day of her funeral, dressed in his mourning attire, Lambia’s grandson wore his black pants and white shirt, and took his place in front of the television to watch the funeral & burial via Facebook livestream.

Since Lambia’s passing and for the following 40 days her beloved grandson wore a black ribbon on his school blazer and all jackets to honour her life.

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“I never got to say goodbye”

“I knew that my yiayia would probably be the first one to leave us and always pictured being at her funeral. Never in my lifetime would I have thought anything differently, but obviously that was ripped off us. I sat there watching the live streaming of my yiayia’s funeral in disbelief as to what was unfolding. I felt her presence and that ultimately gave me peace. I thought that even though someone is gone, we are still united in some sense and that gave me comfort and strength during the mourning period.”

Even though the funeral was on 19 November, Jamieson said that due to the SA government restrictions that were in place at the time, his father was forced to stay in Melbourne until 1 December.

“Even though my father was willing to quarantine when he got back to SA and cover the expenses, all his applications were rejected without any solid explanation. He ended up having to stay in Melbourne until 1 December when borders opened again in Adelaide. That was a huge stress on him and us.”

His grandmother had passed away peacefully in Victoria on 15 November, 2020.

She was buried at the Springvale Botanic Cemetery.

Jamieson was allowed to attend Lambia’s six-month memorial service.

“I never said a proper goodbye to my yiayia, but I have made a promise to her and myself that every time I am in Victoria I will go to the cemetery and offer the same prayers.

“That will be my way of honoring her going forward,” Jamieson concluded.