Seneca, a key philosopher during the Roman Imperial period said, “It takes the whole of life to learn how to live.” As I have discovered through the loss of my grandma on the eve of 2022, sometimes it takes loss to learn how to live. In my last essay, I started talking about some of the things my grandma’s death taught me (read it here if you missed it). As we prepare to inter her body, I’d like to share some more lessons that I have learnt from her death.
Time spent with loved ones is what evolves into fond memories once they pass
Quite obvious, isn’t it? Not so for anyone who isn’t threatened by the possibility of loss. Something I realized with my grandma’s death was how easy it is to take loved ones for granted; after all, you can always call or visit them. In my case, my subconscious assumption that I could always reach my grandma whenever I needed to became postponed calls and visits – I can’t count the number of times she scolded me for not visiting often. My only comfort now that she’s gone is knowing that at least, I saw her some weeks before she passed.
Often, we justify time away from friends and family with the excuse of a busy schedule, which is understandable, except that death has no regard for your schedule, so life goes on and people pass regardless.
Now that Mama’s gone, I find that my memories of her are set on very normal days. I remember watching TV with her, cutting her nails for her, murmuring in displeasure at something she did, or this one random Sunday when we were both in the car after church and she started complaining to me about something. This led to an epiphany: every moment shared with loved ones is a memory for tomorrow.
This consciousness is why I am now putting in effort to interrogate my interaction with loved ones by asking one important question that you should be asking yourself too: “What is the quality of my time spent with the people I love?”
Alive is the only time you get to love people for who they are
If you can’t or won’t do that while they’re around, I doubt you’ll be able to do that after they’re gone. Often in relationships, we want people to be less this or more that, not that this desire is our pre-condition for loving them, but we think it might make it easier to love them. Well, love doesn’t promise to be “easy”, which is what I have learnt reflecting on the relationship I had with my grandma. This is not about enabling toxic or disrespectful behaviors, it’s about recognizing that whatever perfection or near perfection we hope to see in those we love might never happen, and that’s okay.
I was surprised to find that some of my grandma’s character traits that caused friction in our relationship while she was alive were traits that made me smile fondly after she passed. In your relationship, can you stop being worked up about the traits you suspect might never change in your loved one? Can you make peace with how loudly they chew, how they always leave cabinets open, or how loudly they laugh? When you do, you are more likely to enjoy your relationship with them and have few regrets by the time they are no more.
Don’t keep secrets
While sorting through my grandma’s possession, I couldn’t help thinking about how the same would be the fate of my possession after my passing; of which, if I have anything to hide, it’ll be out in the open.
After death, whatever privacy you had will be completely raided, so if you don’t want something to be found out, my advice is simple: don’t do it!
Take as many pictures and videos with your loved ones
It’s not vain. No matter how much time you have had with loved ones, once they pass it never feels like it was enough. When you have pictures and videos of them, however, you get to re-experience them as many times as you need to. So, take spontaneous pictures; do a random video of them carrying out mundane tasks; take a picture of their face as they express disapproval at something stupid you did; take impromptu selfies with them. Enjoy shared moments but also capture them while you still can.