4 Lessons In Life And Love I Learned From My Grandparents
Well, kid, you missed a show.
These were my grandfather's first words to me when he lay helpless and frail in a hospital bed, having just suffered a massive heart attack the night before.
"That's what I hear, " I said, smiling and standing next to his bed, suited up in a bright yellow gown and baby blue medical gloves. Both of us were fully aware he wasn't going to make it too much longer.
My family had just lost my grandmother a few months prior and knew it was only a matter of time before my grandfather soon followed suit. However, knowing it's coming and accepting it are two completely different things.
No one can describe the feeling you have when you lose someone. Some say it's painful, like their hearts being ripped out; others say they felt numb and their brains seemed to stop working.
For me, it felt like my heart hurt. Sometimes, it was an aching feeling; sometimes it felt heavy, and a few times, I thought it was quite literally breaking.
But, experiencing the final days of my grandparents' lives made apparent to me that there is one thing we all want out of our lives: to feel like we did something meaningful. If our lives were meaningful and filled with purpose, then we essentially left those still living with something by which to remember us.
Dealing with anyone's death is a lifelong task that gets easier with time. Our memories keep us company and the lives of those passed give us something to remember and from which learn.
My grandparents' lives did just that; they were able to give the gift of living full lives from which I could learn.
Here's what they taught me:
Laugh so hard you can't breathe
My grandpa was notorious for his jokes and pranks. He had an uncanny ability to make the simplest sarcastic comebacks or comments send everyone into fits of laughter.
His sarcasm and, at times, morbid sense of humor was one of the things I admired about him. By no means was his life easy, but he always managed to keep his humor.
It's was his humor that taught me to not only think fast in order to keep up with his jokes, but also to make sure to find the funny aspect in everything.
Life can be absolutely relentless at times. Struggling to survive, stressing out over money, wondering how you'll be able to do everything — it's easy to get lost in it all. But, it's those moments when you are laughing that the weight of the world seems to lift and make you feel lighter.
Laughter is powerful and contagious, and if you can find the funny in everything, not only will you be happier, you will also have the ability to make other people happy, too. It's true: Everyone loves a funny person.
Live to make memories because they give way to stories
Though I don't believe this was necessarily the motto by which my grandparents lived, when you live a long life and do what they did, good or bad, you'll have memories.
None of my grandparents had it easy. One side uprooted their lives for a better future in the US, while the other side traveled the world, serving in the Navy. In a life span of 70 to 80 years, you see and do so much.
Their life experiences taught me to try and do as much as possible. In summing up a life of 70 years, the number of life-changing events that unfold is amazing.
Living to make memories gives you permission to be spontaneous, to take adventures and to trust your instincts.
However, when you're in the middle of creating these memories, some may not seem that great. But, just remember, good or bad, you can share that memory and either laugh about it or learn from it.
A simple conversation could mean so much more
During my grandpa's funeral service, there was a man who stood up to speak about him. He described a time when my grandpa stopped by to see him and how they discussed sports and life. The man said these simple conversations became frequent and changed his life.
After hearing that, I felt bewildered that simple conversations could have that much power over a single life.
As I thought about it more, I concluded that it wasn't necessarily the conversations themselves, but rather, caring enough to have them in the first place. We get wrapped up in what we're doing and where we're going, and if it doesn't affect us directly, we often forget to care at all.
In listening to this man's recollection of how my grandpa changed his life, I realized how much of a power it is to influence someone so drastically that it completely changes his or her life.
It was that moment when I learned that caring can be as simple as holding conversation.
Now, this seems a little cliché and outdated, but give it a chance.
Both sets of my grandparents on each side of my family were married for about 60 years. One set had an arranged marriage at a young age, while the other set was engaged after their second date. Mind-blowing, yes, I know.
Like any marriage or relationship, there were good times, bad times and, I'm sure, times they wished the other person would just go away. Their difficult life circumstances likely made marriage even harder, and by today's standards, they probably would've been divorced.
Watching the pain both of my grandpas went through in losing their wives was not only heartbreaking but almost inspiring. Imagine spending 60 years with one person — the same person who was next you during all major life events, the person who saw you at your worst and your best.
That is a lot of time, a lot of memories and a lot of love.
My grandparents went through some incredibly hard times, had their fair share of problems and may not have been the best at expressing their love for each other, but in the end, it didn't matter. Their love was unconditional.