My grandmother died this morning. She was eighty-six years old and up until this last year, has lived a very healthy life. She was born in Puerto Rico and spoke English with a thick accent. Other than that, I don’t know a whole lot of history about my grandmother, and that makes me a little sad. But the one thing I do know is that no matter what was going on in her world, she was always smiling.
Today, I looked through pictures starting from 2004 all the way to the present. Even though I have been the family member who has consistently spread her wings and flew the farthest from home, my Gramma was still in tons of my photos. I was actually surprised to see her randomly pop up on my timeline at least once a year. I mean, I knew she was there as each picture was taken, but now that I’m looking backwards, her presence in my ever-changing life is even more prevalent.
Though she was physically there in my life, we didn’t have too many personal conversations. Our chit-chat consisted mostly of polite exchanges about our health or our family. If I entered a room and my grandmother was there, she was the woman who was almost always sitting in a corner, observing her family with a huge smile on her face. Sometimes, she would be sitting with one of her children, but for the most part, she stayed out of the spotlight and truly took pleasure in watching everyone around her. And in today’s “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” lifestyle, my grandmother’s ability to treasure simplicity is becoming extremely unique.
I am thankful that I got a chance to see her three weeks ago, where I had the only in-depth conversation I’ve ever had with her. We talked like two adults, finally getting to know one another. We talked about happiness and love-not just the stuff that you can read in a Hallmark card, but we talked about how it applies to our lives. I walked away from her that night feeling fulfilled, but woke up the next morning with more questions for her. I wanted to know more about her-not just about her health and how the weather in Puerto Rico was, but I wanted to know her opinions about everything. I wanted to know what she thought about the president, or the stock market, or whether she prefers the Mets or the Yankees (did she even like sports?). I wanted to know all of the places she’s been, her favorite trip, her favorite food, her favorite color. I wanted to know what my grandmother had to say. But these questions were never answered because they were never asked. I had to catch my flight back home. And now, three weeks later, she’s gone.
I don’t want this to sound like a boring cliché, but in the last few hours, I have learned three very valuable lessons.
- Smile as much as I can, regardless of how shitty my day is going.
- Ask better questions so that I really get to know the people I love.
- Observe and find pleasure in the simple things, even if that means being the quiet woman in the corner once in a while.
My grandmother was a beautiful woman with a beautiful smile, always seeing the good in everyone and everything, always hopeful when the odds weren’t in her favor, and always willing to sacrifice herself, even in the smallest ways, to make everyone around her happy. She may not be here today, and I may not have been able to ask all of the questions I wanted to ask, but she did leave something behind for me. She left me inspiration. And with that gift, I will try my best to live my life a little closer to the way she lived hers.