it was kind of dichotomous, you know? celebrating life and mourning death. the excitement of being together with family and friends contrasted with sadness for the circumstances that brought us there. a little girl and an elderly man. i paid attention to their hands. the way hers were tiny, small, soft, and always grabbing. and i watched his–weathered and cracked from years of hard work. they were clasped together, holding one another. i went to wyoming last weekend when my grandmother passed away; and although we were gathered outside facing white mountain because of her death, i recognized that we were all actually all there because of her life.
among other things, this weekend came down to lessons from a conversation with a little girl and an elderly man.
two pig tails and a tiny little voice. those piercing blue eyes and endless enthusiasm. it was a weekend of pretend soup made out of wooden blocks, barbies, and completing puzzles. i watched my niece run on her little bare-feet over to my dad. all giggles. she wrapped her hands around his leg, her head barely reaching above his knee. a blue and white striped dress with a mustard-yellow bow. and in her tiny voice she said, “i’m so very glad you are here grandpa,” and then she scurried off to play. i hadn’t seen her in way too long– so of course i expected my niece to be adorable, smart, and funny. and while i know she is being raised to become a wonderful little being, i didn’t expect her uncanny sweetness and sincerity. her ability to string just enough of the right words together that made your eyes water up.
we spent one evening playing in the yard, bare-feet and a bag of purple grapes. it’s no exaggeration when i say we held hands and walked across a wide piece of wood over twenty times. back and forth. the first time we made it across she looked up at me, smiled her biggest smile that revealed her baby teeth growing in, “we did it! we really did it!!” she said. and when we walked back to the other side she squeeled with excitement, high-fived me, and said, “we did our very best!” more excited and proud every.single.time.
and in the midst of playing with magnets on the fridge, learning colors and reciting the alphabet, she looked up at me and said, “you are my very best friend. i love you much.”
lessons from two year olds turn out to be some of the very best ones. what she taught me is to say it now. and to say it the way that you mean it, with every ounce of love. she showed me how to be appreciative of someone else’s time. to express a grateful heart before the moment escapes me. she reminded me to ask questions every chance i get. and then to ask more. to stay curious. i taught her about different colors, and she taught me to look in amazement at everything there is to learn. and like most two year olds do, she reminded me that it’s okay to say ‘no’ sometimes. she showed me how to celebrate small successes with pride and a sense of accomplishment. and she encouraged me to remain excited, to see everything as brand new. and she taught me to stop and recognize a moment for how wonderful it is.
and then it was my grandpa, sitting in his wheelchair, cracking jokes every chance he got. a reminder that sad days can be beautiful and wonderful too. at the funeral, i watched my grandfather’s reaction. he smiled a lot. and on this day, i imagine he was as strong as he has always been. i believe challenging times and difficult situations always reveal your true character. he showed me that sometimes, you just need to sit and take it all in. i asked him how he was doing.
“i can’t complain,” he said.
“well, i guess i could, but it wouldn’t make a difference. it’s a beautiful day.”
the funny thing about death is that makes you think about how you are living. and if you’re making the most out of this life. this one chance. it makes you think about the legacy people have created with all that they leave behind. it makes you think about how you’ve spent your time and if you’ve used your energy in all the right ways. and i keep thinking about how we all gathered around, sharing our favorite memories of my grandmother and wondering about how many times i’ve passed up an opportunity to tell someone how much they mean to me while they were there, right there. i stopped to wonder how many phone calls i didn’t make, the questions i didn’t ask and the stories i never heard. how many cards i didn’t write. and how many chances i’ve passed that i’ll one day hope to get back. but the thing about lessons is that you can’t go back. only forward.
here’s to no longer putting things off for tomorrow.
because all we really have is today.
do it now. say it now. be it now.
what will your life say about you, and what will it say to the world?