Just one short week ago I held my grandmother’s hand as she took her last breaths. Even as I write this now, its hard to believe she is gone. She was 89. She lived a long and full life. If my life is half as full of experience and family and adoration as hers, I would consider myself incredibly lucky. It wasn’t a tragedy. She got to make all of her own decisions all the way to the end. Except that for me, and for the many, many people whose lives she impacted, it certainly feels like a tragedy. I simply cannot imagine a world without her in it.
The memories and life lessons are honestly to0 many to list, but this is a nice picture of who she was and what she taught me during all of our time on this earth together.
1. Strength is beautiful.
My Poppy was the epitome of aging gracefully. With each passing year she seemed to become more beautiful. In hindsight, I realize it was her strength, her ability to be somehow stoic and funny and graceful that made her so beautiful. Her smile lit up the room. She was smart, well-read and just try to win a political debate with her. Her intelligence was captivating.
2. Family is everything.
My family is spread across the continental United States and even extends into Canada. But we are extremely close. Not “show up at your door unannounced” close (thank god), but close. We know what’s going on in each other’s lives, we celebrate the milestones of life together even when we can’t be in the same place physically. We talk on the phone and email. A LOT. We laugh together and cry together. We get on each other’s nerves. But we show up. And most importantly, we respect each other. And that is gold.
3. Education matters.
My grandmother was an educator. She believed in the importance and power of education to lift one up and broaden their horizons. It was something that she instilled in her children and her grandchildren. And now it is something that I work to instill in my children today.
4. Live with a generous spirit.
I really didn’t know anyone more generous. Whenever she heard of a friend, or a friend of a friend, or a friend of a family member that was in need, the fist question she would ask herself is how she could help. She knew how fortunate she was and was always willing to lend a hand to those in need. She knew enough heartache in her own life to appreciate her ability to help others. And she always reminded her family to do this as well.
5. Fight for the issues that you believe in.
Poppy was a bleeding heart liberal if ever there was one. And she was never just talk. Not only did she seek to understand the issues, but she was on the front lines of those that she cared about. She fought for women’s rights, education and the environment and helped to shape all of my ideals.
Travel was always a priority for my grandmother and without her I would have lead a pretty stationary childhood. We traveled all over the country together. We caught crab in Baltimore and watched the Forth of July fireworks in Washington D.C.. We saw the Civil War battlefields and drove through the Pacific Northwest. We climbed the rocky West Coast and shopped the Mall of America. She loved to travel and up until this summer maintained multiple residences. Its through this lens that I take my own children on adventures as often as possible. And the true value comes in the form of irreplaceable memories.
7. Be smart with your money.
My grandmother was a high school English teacher and then a college instructor. But she saved her money and invested wisely so that when she retired she was more than comfortable. She was frugal and didn’t believe in spending money on frivolous things or passing trends. She loved having a few nice things like beautiful dishes or a cashmere sweater so much more than lots of knick knacks or clutter.
If you are still reading, please know that I understand that this is mostly a personal style and lifestyle blog. Fashion, food and fun. It is light and that is intentional. But this post had to be written, even though it was much more for me than it was for you. I needed a record. To put it down somewhere how much she meant to me and all that she taught me.
This hasn’t been an easy year. There has been more loss than I would have thought I’d endure in decades, much less in 9 months time. But it has taught me maybe the most precious lesson of all. Tomorrow isn’t guaranteed and show those you love, just how much you love them.