I know that death impacts us all, and that we all deal with death in our own way. Death is permanent, irreversible, and unstoppable. I also know that there are certain people, certain important figures in your life, who seem immortal. That was the case for my grandfather. Granddad was truly larger than life— a charismatic, loving, supportive, grandfather in every way. I talked to him about everything, and he always made sure I felt heard, supported, and loved. He never shut me down, and he was always excited to hear what I was doing with my life.
I took it hard when I heard he had cancer around Christmas 2016. Harder than I maybe should have. Stage four. I went from seeing him as this immortal, larger-than-life entity, to seeing him become this frail shell of his former self. My loquacious grandfather started to speak far less, often times getting breathless and tired between words. Even still, he was cracking jokes until he coughed from shortness of breath, telling everyone he loved them, and encouraging us to keep on with what we were doing. When he passed, I slipped into a two-month long depression. I could barely convince myself to go to my classes, something he very much would have wanted me to do, as he was majorly into having educated granddaughters. He had been my last living grandparent, but he was also the only grandparent of mine who’d been able to know who I am as an adult, which was more valuable than he’ll ever know. We weren’t always so close. I rarely saw him growing up, and I’d had the pleasure of spending the last 6 years of his life beside him. By mid-February, he was gone.
Granddad’s legacy was love. To be love. He truly believed that to be loved, you had to first be loving. Realizing this has changed how I live my life. I am more impassioned than ever about making sure the people around me feel love, even complete strangers. His passing has made me more politically-minded, more of an activist, more of a friend, daughter, sister, and woman. He lived an incredibly full life. However, finding a balance between helping others and keeping myself grounded is something I struggle with. I also believe that he struggled with this— he lent himself to so many people that sometimes he forgot to tend to himself and the desires he had for his life. I know that he believed I am here to do great things, so I am working on internalizing that same fiery passion, internalizing those doubtless words of encouragement he used to tell me about myself and my future.
I’m learning that it’s okay to compromise. That it’s okay to put myself first and relax. I’m learning that sometimes loving someone doesn’t mean you have to do everything for them; it’s okay to step back and stay on my path and pray that others find and remain on theirs. I learned so much from my Granddad, but one thing I need to learn for myself is self-preservation. I believe that my Granddad found comfort in being there for his family and making himself available for his family, but I also think that in a way that became draining at times. Through his death, I realized that it’s okay for me to not be there for everyone all the time. I also realized that it is impossible to be there for people if I am not putting myself first and ensuring that I am at a place in my life to properly tend to the needs of others without draining myself.
Life is a gift, and living it is how we say thank you. But it’s exhausting to run around doing everything that isn’t in your lane— it also majorly detracts from your purpose. I believe that it was his purpose to be the center of love in our family, but through his death, I learned that it is my responsibility to multiply that love. Instead of looking at his life and following in his footsteps like I thought I should, I am learning that I am to spread his love and wisdom beyond our family, beyond the boundaries that I had previously imagined. I am not meant to emulate— his life was merely a template— but I am responsible for filling it in with my own hopes, dreams, skills, and accomplishments.
I will always miss Granddad. I will always cry when I hear his voice in my head; I will always think of him with every sip of coffee that I take, then thank him for passing that sweet addiction along to me. But through his death, after many months of reflection, I’ve learned my purpose.
Happy Father’s Day.
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