My grandma was a woman of many talents and many flaws – as we all are. Some of those flaws feel unforgivable at times, but I must say that I’m proud to have inherited some of her talents.
When she passed away at the end of November 2011 my mom and I flew down to Florida to attend her funeral and wrap up some loose ends. She had the above sign in her kitchen and that’s when I realized even though I didn’t feel I ever really got to know her, I was definitely my grandmother’s granddaughter.
My grandma was a vegan nutritionist decades ago when it seemed really insane. She would take her clients on grocery store tours and explain how to shop, what to avoid, what to buy. She drove my mom completely crazy, but every once in a while my mom mentions a delicious recipe of my grandma’s that she wishes she had.
The doctors said my grandma was a miracle after she fought off breast cancer for the umpteenth time. They said her healthy lifestyle saved her life over and over again after a late first diagnosis. In the end her last rigorous cancer treatment caused more harm than good when the radiation on her brain (the cancer had spread) left her in a nursing home, unable to walk, and pissed off at the nasty processed food she was being served.
At some point during all of this she wrote my brother and I a list of life lessons. My mom gave it to me about a year after she passed away. Grandma asked that she give it to us when we were “ready”. With my brother preparing to leave for the Air Force as I get ready to be married, she felt it was time to pass it along.
Here are some of my grandmother’s words of wisdom. It was a long letter so I’ll just share my favorites!
I have lived many years and made many mistakes. If I had not made those mistakes I would not have learned valuable lessons. I decided to put my pen to paper to respectfully pass this information on to you. It is my hope that some of these points will help you to navigate through your journey. I sincerely wish a happy, fulfilling life for you!
Some things I learned the hard way:
1. Never diminish another’s pain. You cannot know of their life experience or exactly how they feel. Try to be empathetic if you are able to do it.
2. Try to teach not preach. Do this by example.
3. Each day make at least one person feel good about themselves.
4. Think well of someone until there is a reason to doubt them.
5. Never underestimate the power of kindness.
6. Actively encourage all the good you see in others.
7. Never miss an opportunity to help someone if you are able.
8. Learn to trust your instincts. Your inner sense will guide you properly.
9. If anger arises in you – before you act or open your mouth – take a moment to reflect on the outcome. Could this be handled in a different manner? Own responsibility for your own words or reactions. Do not place blame on another for your feelings. Only you can change you. No one else. Your reactions depend on your ability to clearly see all sides of a problem.
10. Never miss an opportunity to say “I was wrong, I’m sorry.” Those words can initiate the power of healing.
11. Seek joy every day. Joyful people are likelier to lead healthful lives.
12. Discover what your passion is and pursue it! You will recognize it when it comes along. Give everything to it and you are sure to succeed. Don’t give up on yourself or your dreams. You will hit a few rough spots on the road, but learning how to conquer them is part of a greater journey – the journey of your life.
13. Talk less. Do more, listen more. We were given one mouth and two ears for a reason.
14. Take time to appreciate and cherish the natural world at least once a day. Study insect habits, raise a butterfly garden and breathe clean air.
15. It’s never too late to make a fresh start.
16. Remember that violence solves nothing and begets more violence. Love is the only answer.
17. Forgiveness, while never easy, is doable. You can forgive, but you do not have to forget. We humans are a pretty resilient species.
18. Stand up for your beliefs and support them – seek others who share your views.
19. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Learn to laugh at your own shortcomings.
20. Rejoice in the accomplishments and successes of others who have earned your respect.
21. Be mannerly. Good manners and respect never hurt anyone.
22. Try to read great works by authors who have survived the decades so that you will learn more of human nature and life. Authors like Charles Dickens, William Makepeace Thackery, Maya Angelou, etc. It will also give you more of a command of the English language. Never underestimate the power of using language properly.
Believe in miracles. There is order in nature. Think about it. The seasons are orderly. An oak leaf will not grow on a dogwood tree.
Prayer is powerful. Pray for love, light and healing to replace violence and hate.