My grandma passed away a couple of weeks ago. Although she was 89 and “just a grandma”, it felt much more tragic to my family and me than an ordinary passing. Even though we knew her stage-four cancer was going to take her, could see her bony frame become more emaciated each week, could see her struggling for even the smallest breath of air… it still felt like punch to the gut when we found out.
And in the two weeks since her passing, I’ve been contemplating why.
Why does the death of an 89 year old woman feel so tragic somehow? Why do I feel as though the orbit of the planet has shifted?
It got me thinking about her, the amazing qualities she possessed, and what she contributed to everyone in this world.
And the inevitable follow-up questions were:
How do I live my life like her?
How do I live in such a way that my death will feel like a tragedy, despite a hopeful old age and the possibility of failing health?
I could have come up with a hundred things Grandmom did to become such a legacy, because even the little things matter in a big way. But five, I know, she would want me to pass on. These five things are big ideas with an even bigger impact, things that we can all do to shift the orbit of other people’s lives to give them a little more sunshine.
1) LOVE. Unapologetically and with a smile. Everyone, with no exceptions.
Greet family and strangers with a hug and a smile so wide that they can’t help but smile back.
Grandmom did this naturally. It didn’t matter who was standing in front of her; they were always greeted the same way an old friend would be. I can still close my eyes and see her beaming broadly the first time she met my husband’s parents, wrapping them in a hug so they knew they were not only welcome, but cherished.
Her biological family benefited from her constant adoration, too. I always have been needy for affection (just ask my husband – ha!). As a child, I knew Grandmom’s lap was always open and her arms would always be waiting for a hug. I was borderline embarrassed about the amount of love she poured onto me until I noticed her lavishing my sisters and my cousins with the same attention, and then I was in awe of her. Who has the ability to show everyone that level of love? Even at a young age, she would show me a glimpse of Jesus every day by doing this.
2) LAUGH. Allow yourself to be improper from time to time, and cherish the moment.
Good Lord, could Grandmom laugh. She laughed at jokes, at memories, and even at herself. Even as she struggled to breathe, she would laugh. Two weeks before she died, my son was running circles around me. I made the comment that he was nothing like me (sarcastically, of course). And she laughed. It was followed with a cough that I’m sure was painful, but even in the darkness of her failing health, she chose laughter.
To her, laughter is what made life worth living. It was something even failing health couldn’t take away.
3) EXPERIENCE. Value moments, not money. Value time, not treasures.
Granddad told us at Thanksgiving that he got Grandmom to marry him with the promise of a trip. Their honeymoon lasted ten states and one month long. For the rest of their lives, they traveled. They saw the magnificence that was God’s creation. They met people and expanded their family with each drive. Every year, they made it a point to go on vacation. They weren’t rich. In fact, they’d pack their food for the trip, and their family of four would all sleep in the pickup: my mother would sleep in the cab and my grandparents and uncle would sleep in the back on a mattress.
They didn’t have much. But they had the world. And it’s a gift God has given to all of us.
With Christmas coming up, it’s easy to get caught up in the things. We all have homes overflowing with toys, and all of them are things our children will outgrow. More importantly, if we’re truly being honest with ourselves, they’re all things that will spoil our children and their imagination, that will be yet another thing they receive without having the pride of earning it. Honor yourselves. Invest in an experience, not an I-Pad.
4) SERVE OTHERS. Without expecting anything in return.
Grandmom was old school. She loved taking care of her home, her husband, and her children. Later, she loved caring for her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She was a proud member of the PEO, a social organization that met regularly in the homes of their members. I loved watching Grandmom get to work when it was her turn to host. She would polish her silver and get out her cherished family heirlooms. When I was young, I thought she wanted to show off what she had, that these functions were a chance for her to gloat about her family’s fine traditions. But when I was in high school, that changed. I was helping her set out her china for a function. “Amanda,” she told me, “I love anything with tradition. It’s a reminder of who you are and your family’s history. I feel like I’ve gotten the best from mine, and I want to share that with others.”
She wanted to serve others. She wanted to share her best. It was her language of love, and no one left her home without feeling that love.
Even with non-formal meals, she would do her best to create an amazing feast. She’d set the table and always apologize for something – anything – not being up to standard. As a teenager, I told her, “Grandmom, I’m in high school and usually eat at the cafeteria. I have no standards.”
It didn’t matter, though. She still thought I was worth her very best, and she never thought her efforts were good enough for me. Do you have any idea how valued that made me feel? That the most attention I was receiving from anyone wasn’t even good enough in her eyes? I was rich with the spoils of her love.
What an amazing servant to my heart. I am grateful.
5) KEEP THE PERSPECTIVE.
This life is tough. I only told you about the good things that Grandmom experienced in this post, and honestly, that’s all I’m going to do, because that’s what she would want. Not because she wanted to be perceived as being perfect, but she wanted to be happy regardless of her circumstance.
I saw Grandmom worried, and she would pray.
I saw Grandmom sad, and she would focus on what made her happy.
I saw Grandmom angry, and she would allow herself to be. But then she’d get over it, and she’d do it quickly. She’d choose happy.
I saw Grandmom old, and she’d insist she never felt her age.
I saw Grandmom sick, and she would try and will herself to be healthy.
I saw Grandmom doubt life after this, and instead of letting those doubts consume her, she’d turn to her Bible, her devotions, and to us. She’d talk to Christians. She’d ask for proof, and God would provide her with it.
My friend Kim calls it seeing life through different “perspectacles”. Grandmom did that. Even when life told her she should be angry and bitter and sad and hopeless, she wasn’t. Her heavenly perspective told her to focus on the gifts, not the discrepancies.
Grandmom did these five things, all day every day. And because of that, she was magnetic. Her personality drew people to her. Her smile made their days brighter and her hugs and laughter made their hearts warmer. She’s left this world, and all of us in it, in a better state because of her presence.
Rest in peace, Grandmom. And rest assured that I – among others – will strive to leave the same legacy you did.
Source: Amanda Deich