Remembering Those We Love | Losing a Grandparent
Two of the things we hold in high regard are family and elders. Our elders are the ones that are always there for us and the ones that have been there before us. They’re to be honored, respected, and listened to. So, when Shannon recently lost her Grandfather (nine years after losing her Grandmother), it was a difficult time for her. To process her loss, she took an afternoon to write about her memories with her Grandparents, and in particular her grandfather.
In Shannon’s voice, we’d like to now share the writing from that afternoon…
As I’ve aged, the memories I hold dearest have been replaced and exchanged as my understanding of my grandparents and their impact on my life has grown. When I was young, I never understood their stopping to take a purposeful moment and admire the flowers. Now that I’m older, I too see the beauty they saw in nature and I now relate to them in a way I never could as a child. As I travel the world and immerse myself in each new culture, I finally understand their fascination with visiting churches, and am a far cry from the 12 year old that groaned at each church on our then sightseeing itinerary.
Of course, the memories I cherished as a child are even more special today. From the smell of bacon and grits on Christmas morning to the smiles on their faces every time they saw me, my memories of my grandparents will always comfort me. The memories I recall most fondly though, are those of Wednesday afternoons as a child. I don’t remember exactly what we did each and every week, but my grandparents would pick me up from school and we’d spend the afternoon together. While I suspect they may have told you the time we had together was most impactful on them, I’d have to argue that as a young girl, the time at the zoo, having a picnic at the park, or putting a puzzle together, played a key part in who I am today. Not because of what we did or where we went, but because I was with two wonderful people who loved me more than I could begin to imagine.
Then there are the memories that will forever take me back and fill me with images, smells, and feelings of my grandparents. The colors of fall bring a tear to my eye because I know how much they loved the beauty of the season. The taste of canned green chiles, powdered milk, and just the mention of a pecan pie will forever remind me of the love in their kitchen.
I will always have an odd affinity for mint green bathrooms and the Reader’s Digest magazine. And deep down, the perfect night will always be an evening in the family room, with a book to read, the piano being played, and crossword puzzle in progress.
I’ve been told more times than I can count that they were incredibly excited for me, the arrival of their first grandchild. But, I didn’t need to be told this to know it. Whether it be teaching me to roller blade, pushing me on a swing, pulling me up by each hand for a ‘1-2-3 Jump!’ on walks, or spending countless hours over the years making happy memories with me, I’ve always known they loved me deeply.
Looking back, it’s difficult to see my grandparents as two individuals, as they were always a pair to me. Even as my grandfather lived several years longer, being with him in that time always seemed as if my grandmother was just in another room. Who he was, like any great couple, was part of a whole. He offered so much to my grandmother and to the world. Most people who knew him, knew he was a benevolent man who loved playing piano and sang in the church choir for over 60 years. However, what some may not know, and the bits I will always remember him by are his deep laugh, his daily walks, and his love for crossword puzzles. Through his actions and wisdom, he taught me how to respect others and how to value things in this world.
Near the end of his life, even though he didn’t remember who I was, I made even more beloved memories. The once stoic man I’d grown up with seemed to have lost the exterior shield he’d put up many years before I came into existence. In addition to all of the memories I had, I can now cherish the memory of some of the best hugs he’d ever given me and his huge smiles that showed immense kindness and appreciation.
And, even when he didn’t know who I was, as he played the piano and sang for me I knew and will forever know, he was my grandfather...
As I finished writing my thoughts that afternoon I realized that as we move through life it’s often all too easy to forget what truly matters.
While we consider ourselves practiced in being mindful and appreciating our family, elders, and each other, as digital nomads and living life as outliers, we’re certainly not immune to getting caught up in the minutia of everyday ‘life’. But it’s times like this, where we’re jolted into remembering the importance of life’s true gifts.
We’re glad that a day doesn’t go by that we don’t say I love you and that we make the effort to stay connected with our family and to show them our love and appreciation. We’re fortunate that in recent years we’ve taken the time to hear the stories and memories of our elders. However, after the fact it never seems like it was enough. So if you can, please spend the time to cherish those closest to you. We doubt you’ll regret it.