On October 31st of this year, I lost my grandfather.
I received the call while waiting for a sandwich at a deli and boy did the news hit hard. I stepped outside and grieved in private.
I decided right there and then I would travel to Puerto Rico and check on my grandma, my dad, and my uncles.
The days that followed were completely chaotic. We are still very much in a pandemic and there are new travel protocols and procedures that we all need to abide by in order for the continued safety of the public.
But it was all well worth it.
My grandfather has always been one that enjoyed helping the community in Puerto Rico. When I was younger, he was the neighborhood handyman. He fixed all household appliances and was great at it. He would not charge for any of the services provided. His life, during that time, was to help in any way he could. If payment preceded the service, he would not turn it down, but he did not demand it either.
There was a time that both my grandparents had little to no funds. They survived by working. That’s all they knew to do. Grandma worked in a kitchen at a school, grandpa at a factory. Both grew up knowing what it was like not to have anything. So when my grandfather was able to live comfortably, he spent his money on the things he liked lavishly.
He bought a car that he could not drive. He had no license. Every so often, he would go outside, wash and wax the car, sit in it, turn it on, and roll down the windows. He allowed my dad to drive it, while he was in attendance.
As far as his grandchildren are concerned, we saw him as someone that would like to stay busy. A man that left to provide for his wife and family, in any way he could.
Some of my favorite memories of my grandfather were those in which he showed an overabundance of compassion in the only way he knew how.
Other times, he would show up to the house with an old phone that no longer worked and watch me play receptionist at the age of 5.
On my birthday, he bought me the biggest doll house he could find, put it together, and surprised me when he showed up with it. His joy derived from the joy he gave his grandkids and those around him.
One of the most memorable conversations I had with my grandfather was when he asked me how I was. He was outside on a chair looking out into his yard when he called me over. At the time, my 3 children were really small. They were outside playing and chasing each other. He was watching intently over them as we spoke.
“I want you to take this.” He said. He pressed a few dollars in my hand. When I refused, he looked at me in the most serious way and said, “Yari, I know the trip over here was not easy, or cheap. I know it was hard to raise the money to bring those grandkids over here. Do not insult me by not taking this.” I could not help but smile. In his eyes, I was still his very young first born female grandchild, despite having 3 children of my own. After, he asked me how I was. How I truly was. He told me to take care of myself. That if I needed anything to give him a call.
I can’t help but love him more because of that very conversation.
I think a lot of that conversation. If there’s anything that my grandparents did teach me was that life is not always about getting out on top.
In order to live a truly fulfilling life, we must help others. Yes, we can make a living off helping others, however, we should really take a moment to choose kindness with no end result.
Life is not about expecting something in return for your kindness, or hard work. Life does not owe you a damn thing.
Life is about helping others, and stamping your name in the heart of those you meet. Opening your heart and mind to the possibilities of love, means opening your heart and mind to pain, regret, and sorrow alike.
The risk will always be there. In everything you do. There’s no way to side step it. We can only prepare for the worst and hope for the best.
This in turn should not paralyze you. You need to take active control of your life in order for results to show.
You cannot expect that things will fall in line because you will it so. Make plans, take risks, and have fun doing it. Leave the things that you cannot control behind you and do the things that you can control to the best of your ability.
Make a life that is worth something.
At the funeral for my grandfather, in her grief, my grandmother found complete peace. Her life is rich in family, and compassion. Despite all her hardships, she is one of the most content women I have ever met at the age of 87.
This is where I would like to be at my end of life. Surrounded by my family, and surrounded by all the love they give me.
It’s very strange how the effects of death hit each of us uniquely. For me this experience has been enlightening. I think about the end of life that I have been exposed to, and compare it to many others that I have seen.
While most encounters with death I have experienced as a nurse with patients and their loved ones, none left me feeling the way my grandfather’s did. Yes, it may be because of the connection I had with my own family. However, I think it was because it was bitter sweet.
To me, this experience was a celebration of his life. Of his accomplishments, and of how he chose to make more than just money.
He chose to make his life a valued one. One that is highly favored by those who, at the end, regret not spending more time with those who were important to them.
On this blog we usually discuss corporate settings and how to make strides in a highly competitive environment. At the time of my grandfather’s death, I was so focused on achieving goals and success, that I lost sight of the most important individuals in my life. This event made me sit down and find my own sanity amongst the many things that I have set out to accomplish.
Taking the time to write this for you Paco, is important. Thank you.
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Yaritza Ellison has been an nurse since 2010. She has been essential to the healing process of many and seeks to continue to do so. Her passion for mental health and self help literature has lead her to launch justyari.org, where she aspires to coach young ladies navigating through work-life balance.