I have always started the new year with excitement and a list of resolutions, but this time around, I started 2022 mourning the loss of my grandmother.
Something I have always prided myself on is the intentionality in my approach to every new year. Mindful of its significance and the opportunity it presents for a do-over (even if only psychologically), I start every year armed with a clear list of what I will do differently, and I haven’t done badly so far.
But as I set my plans in motion for 2022 on the eve of the new year, the last thing I expected was a call from my sister saying words I hoped she wouldn’t say, “Mama is dead.”
When you have aged people around you, it’s hard to ignore the fact that their end is imminent. The sluggishness of their steps and feebleness of their bodies will remind you about this. Sometimes, the severity of a degenerative disease on their mind will remind you. Other times, often in a stark awareness of their mortality, they will remind you themselves. Even then, nothing, absolutely nothing prepares you for their death.
For the first few minutes after I received news of my grandma’s passing, I was stunned, and it wasn’t until I saw her empty room that it hit me that this emptiness she had left behind would be our new normal. So, against the backdrop of fireworks and excited shouts of “Happy New Year”, I wrestled with disbelief as I tried to come to terms with my family’s loss.
Although death is quite shocking, it can also be very illuminating. My grandma’s death taught me striking lessons you may find valuable:
The crux of our lives is the unseen, and our bodies are just an expression of our unseen selves
For as long as I can remember, I’ve known that humans are multidimensional beings, existing in spirit, soul, and body. I do believe, however, that we are not always as mindful of our other dimensions as we are of our bodies. Because we have a very tangible frame of reference for our bodies, I can understand why that would be the case, but it’s a risky thing to be so preoccupied with our bodies that we relegate our unseen selves to an afterthought, or worse, that we pay it no mind at all.
For one, the unseen is what drives the physical. Secondly, our bodies cannot sustain an existence beyond the afterlife. Our bodies are simply not fit to survive the supernatural. Therefore, we need to care for our souls in the same way that we care for our bodies, perhaps even more so.
Seeing my grandma’s lifeless body imprinted this lesson into my heart forever because my grandma, as I knew her, was no longer there. What I was looking at was merely a shell now emptied of her true self.
Experience trumps things
Compared to a lot of people, my grandma didn’t have a lot of stuff, but she had a habit of collecting random paraphernalia. After she died, we found church leaflets from five to six years ago in her possession, unused key-holders, and some other random stuff. As we sifted through them, laughing fondly at some of the things we found, it hit me that her effort to acquire those things were as good as wasted.
Isn’t it the same with us? We want to acquire clothes, books (my weakness), properties, gadgets and whatnots, but at the end of the day, none of that matters – not as the keepsake we carry with us to the afterlife, or to the people we leave behind. Yet, I cannot tell you to stop investing in things because we do need things to make our earthly existence comfortable. I will say, however, that we need to invest in experiences as much as we do in things.
In a move that’s unsurprising following the loss of a loved one, I have reflected on my mortality, thinking about the last moments of my life and what would matter most to me then. I’m quite certain it won’t be what I do or do not own, rather, the quality of my experiences while alive, which is why I am choosing to invest in experiences more than things in 2022.
What are you choosing to invest yourself in this year?
If you watch, there’s a difference in how people who are conscious of mortality live; they are often intentional about how they spend their lives. This is how I hope you will approach 2022 and the rest of your life.