As I lay in bed in the United Kingdom early Monday (September 23, 2013) morning, my phone rang. It was my parents calling from their new home in Africa. I always enjoy hearing from my parents, and over the past few days have spoken to them frequently. This time, the conversation was not as joyful.
On Sunday, September 22, 2013 (Mountain Canada time), my grandmother (mom’s mother) transitioned from a life on Earth to a life in the heavens. For those who did not have the privilege of knowing her, she was an angel of the Earth and now has gone home.
As gma laid in intensive care in the hospital, my first reaction was to immediately fly to Canada to be with my family. As I try to do with most major decisions, I decided to sleep on this major decision. This allowed me to try and carefully consider my decision was made rationally and not due to money.
During the time of phone calls, Skype dates, and messages to and from family members, I tried to reflect on what my gma meant to me as a young adult and how she invariably helped build a large path of my journey through live up until this point.
(For those that know me well, rarely do I talk about my feelings. Even if I do, rarely is it anything but superficial feelings. It is on rare occasion I like to discuss myself or background. Mostly unprecedented for me, I will discuss some of my reflection and feelings.)
There is really no doubt of the importance of family to my gma. It has stuck as a major value of my mother (and father, too, albeit from his family). I really don’t know if there would be something she wouldn’t do if a family member really required her aid.
She raised a family of many children. There are my aunts and uncles, and my mother. There are cousins, and now the children of my cousins. There are many boys and girls (likely in the span of 30+) raised by my grandparents.
Regardless if you were a blood relative or not, there were not too many holidays without extra warm bodies at the dinner table. When it came to the holidays, anyone in the house was eating with the family (even the dogs in most cases).
Reflecting on my childhood, I now appreciate how much I learned and developed from this environment – doesn’t matter your background or how much you screwed up yesterday, when it came to dinner, you better darn we’ll be at the dinner table when you were called. I grew up in a pretty good family. Many of those I sat beside at dinner, we’re not as lucky. However, once you entered my grandparents, you better be hungry at dinner time.
This taught me the invaluable lesson of not just tolerance. Even more than tolerance. How we should embrace and enjoy differences, and it raises the question, how different really are we humans from one another. Gma, leading by example, showed me that regardless of your gender/sex, where you grew up (how different you were from her), should we do her best to help you if and when needed.
One of my most memorable gifts I got from my mom’s parents (I also got many from my dad’s parents, too), was a mini basketball arcade game. I can trace a lot of my recent life events back to this basketball game. It helped ignite a flame of sport passion. Sports has many benefits to one’s character, development, and life. This playing of sports helped me get into a good university, receive financial support from scholarships, and graduate with a fantastic education. This in turn allowed me to move overseas. Playing the basketball game for hours on end, taught me the ideas of perseverance, work ethic, and being creative. When you have siblings older, stronger, and smarter, you must figure out a way to use what you have available to you, to try and out-score them.
How such a simple thing can have so much meaning. It’s impressive that even when someone is longer physically present on Earth, they can still teach the world so much about giving to others.
My grandmother traveled frequently to visit her many beautiful grandchildren and children. Never, did she go on a vacation just for herself (and my grandfather). Her enjoyment from traveling came from visiting her family and friends. If she could, wherever she was needed, she would be there as soon as possible.
Reflecting on this component of her life, nearly made my mind up for me: fly to Canada ASAP. However, I started to look at the bigger picture. I asked myself, if I go home, why am I going home? Is it for my emotions? Is it because I “have to?”
When reflecting, I felt a range of emotions. Upset that I was a $1,400 flight away from home. Angry that I wasn’t able to be there when I was needed. Happy about what I was able to learn from my grandma. Sad that I was not by her side as they moved her from the community hospital to the major regional hospital, and from a ward to the intensive care unit.
This sadness really got me thinking. Then I spoke to my mother.
“You know gramma wouldn’t want you to make such a long flight just for her,” said momma.
This jolted me. Momma was right (it took me a while to admit this to myself).
I thought, if she wouldn’t want me to make a long journey home for her, how can I use everything she taught me over the years (the importance of family and friends, her enjoyment of travel, rarely buying things for herself as she spent all of her money on her family) to pay my respects and be at peace.
The World’s Family
For those that read my blog on a regular basis, you will know the importance I place on #peace4all. This is because regardless of where you grew up, how much money you have, your gender/sex, I believe everyone has the right to peace, freedom, respect, and dignity (my #shouldnotbe blog post). This comes from growing up in an environment where everyone in the home was invited to the dinner table and we were all fed the same food on the same dishes. If the world is my only home (just as was similar to many people growing up in my grandparent’s home), then I should break bread with others who may not have the opportunity on a regular basis.
As I concluded in a recent blog post (“Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, and today is the present, that is why the call it a gift”). We should not forget about our history. However, we cannot live in the past; the yesterday of time. We must use today as a present and gift to visit and meet family and friends.
My Call to Action
At 2:00PM (Mountain time, Canada; 9:00PM London time), I will take an hour to celebrate her life. I will feel sorrow. I will be very sad. I may even be very lonely. I may weep and have tears. Confused as to why someone who taught me so much, was taken suddenly (nearly instantly) from our rainbow human nation.
This is part of the healing process and realizing that her death is now history. There is nothing I can do about it. However, today, I can use her death for action instead of being frozen by emotions.
When we die, I think we hope we will leave some legacy for someone, somewhere. That we will have made some sort of impact on someone. Left the world 1/7,000,000,000 (one, seven-billionth) better than when we found it (I am only one person out of 7 billion on the Earth).
Having some time to think and think things through (writing is very good at helping narrow thoughts and make them more clear), I will use one of my angel’s passing to do what she did while she was still physically with us. Help all my brothers and sisters in our world of rainbow people (and rainbows are so beautiful). Take joy from traveling and meeting friends and family around the world. Gain fulfillment from spending less money on material items that I forget about by the time I walk out of the door of the store, and instead spending money on things for others.
As such, I plan to use my April 2014 vacation from work (during student’s post-examination time at my institution) to travel to Africa and help some of my family and friends I have yet to meet (or know). I do not know their names, yet. Just as gramma didn’t know the names of some of the youngsters moving into her home until they got to her doorstep, and yet she still made them join the dinner table, I will discover a few names of fellow members of the only nation that truly exists on Earth; the human race.
I think this will be the ultimate way for me to pay my respects to my grandmother. Use what she taught me, and how she helped others who may have never have been helped, to continue her legacy and impact in the world. As I said earlier, #peace4all.
Your Call to Action
If you not busy at 2:00PM (Mountain Time in Canada), take a moment to remember someone who is important in your life and where you have gotten today. If they are still an angel with us today, take a moment to thank them and appreciate them.
RIP Grama Sagar