Warning: we are about to get deep. Life jackets on people.
I should say first, that despite the theme of my blog, no one would have been able to prepare me for what I would feel after experiencing the permanence of death. No words or advice would have changed anything. But I do think addressing it now is still important and hopefully resonates with anyone reading that has lost someone close to them too.
I lost my paternal grandmother when I was 12. While I remember her fondly, I was a little too young to fully grasp what it all meant at the time. Then, from age 12-26, I really didn’t have any close relations with death that directly impacted me on a personal level. It did come knocking on my family’s door in 2011 when my maternal grandfather suffered a shocking heart attack that almost cost him his life. That moment shook me to my core and I still remember that day in grave detail. You see, my grandpa was one of my best friends. He and my grandmother moved in with my mom, brother and I after my parents split, and I was only two years old. The bond we developed as I grew up was so deep and so influential that it had a direct impact on the person I became and the adult I am today. Almost losing him when I was 17 would have altered the course of my life forever, especially since it was such a pivotal time of development for me, and I can’t confidently say I would be the same person right now if God had taken him from me that day.
As it turned out though, God did need him—for real this time—6 years later. In February of 2017, I got the worst phone call of my life. My grandpa had stage 4 bladder cancer and no one had any idea how to process it. He was given 6 months to 2 years to live, and 3 and a half years later, on June 3, 2020, he passed away in the comfort of his own home, our home where his family lived. During his 3+ year battle, there had been a lot of emotional ups and downs, but overall we were pretty blessed to have had the same old funny and caring husband, dad and grandpa we had always known. It wasn’t until the last month or so of his life that we really saw the cancer take over. And it wasn’t until that month where I truly felt a drastic change in my mentality. Everything I once cared about just didn’t seem important anymore.
Like a lot of people, I am guilty of putting my focus and energy into superficial things. For my entire teens and adult life, I’ve always cared way too much about pop culture and reality tv, and constantly updating my social media accounts to let people know what I was doing. And then suddenly my time became preoccupied with feeding my grandpa his liquid morphine at 3am and making sure he didn’t sink too far down in the hospital bed that was in the middle of the living room. Instead of gossiping in the group chat or scrolling through Instagram, I was spending my time sorting through the clothes that didn’t fit him anymore and never would again because the lymphedema would only get worse. It was through all of these “distractions” from normalcy that I realized the real distractions were the surface level fixations that kept me from remembering what really matters in this life. Like campouts in the backyard, and cooking dinner together, or full grown adults singing along to Disney movies on the couch (that “Frozen” soundtrack, am I right?)…and spending absolutely every second you can telling your loved ones how much they mean to you. That’s the important stuff. That is the stuff that shapes us as human beings (at least as better ones).
Bottom line: spend your time on this Earth wisely, and spend it with the people who matter most to you. The last month of my grandfather’s life was the most pivotal month of my own. My priorities shifted dramatically and my perspectives were altered forever, and I am working every single day to be a more fulfilled person than I was before. I wish it didn’t take losing someone close to me to see it, but not all of us can read it in someone’s blog and have it trigger a moment of self-reflection… 😉