“In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” – Benjamin Franklin.
Growing up, talking about death was just part of every day life. Whenever there was a lesson to be learned, my parents would say “we aren’t going to be around forever so you need to figure out how to take care of yourself.” Plus, buying life insurance at an early age was just something we did. I noticed as I entered adulthood how many friends and acquaintances avoided planning for the inevitable. As if ignoring meant it would never come.
With the increasing engagement of social media, I’m starting to see more and more posts about loved ones passing away. These posts are always followed by the typical responses…”my prayers are with you” and “I’m so sorry for your loss.” Having lost a few friends and family members myself, it is hard to deal with the loss of a loved one.
My biggest loss so far is my grandma – my mom’s mother. When we were toddlers, she came over from Thailand to help raise my brother and I since my parents both worked full-time. She couldn’t speak English, so she was the reason I’m still able to speak Thai to this day…as broken as it may be. She was pretty awesome. Made some pretty darn yummy Thai food…and her desserts were all from scratch. I was spoiled. Now when I go to Thai restaurants, I’m usually disappointed because they’ll never match up to her cooking.
When my grandma passed away, it was pretty eye opening. She was the last living grandparent. I had every hope she would see me get married, and maybe if she was lucky meet her first great grandchild. Now, I just hope my parents make it long enough to witness two of life’s most monumental events.
Her death was one that we all had hoped for. Super quick and no suffering. She had a massive stroke and passed away in her sleep. When I joined my family in Thailand to pay my respects, every day we would go out to eat in honor of her. We would pick places she loved and eat her favorite dishes. We celebrated her amazing life…coming from a poor family of Chinese immigrants that settled in Thailand…raising 6 children while selling Thai food and desserts to pay the bills…moving to America in her 60s to raise two crazy grandkids. I even found out later that my grandma used to distill moonshine!! Who knew?! I sure do miss her stories.
She may not have had a lot in her bank account, but her life was richer than most people I know with all the money in the world. Although she slowed down as she aged, nothing ever stopped her from tending to her insanely huge vegetable garden and seeing her friends. So whenever I see social media posts about someone passing away, I only hope their families can celebrate their lives they way mine did (and still do) for my grandma.
An aside – I was traveling back home after racing in Madison, WI. Crossing the street from the rental car drop off to the terminal I saw an elderly couple. The wife had a walker, and the husband with a cane. They couldn’t have been more than 75-80 years old. When I saw them, I wondered what choices did they make in their lives to end up where they were at. Then thinking back to my grandma and how active she was right up until she passed away…along with friends in the triathlon community that are still racing in their 70s and 80s. It’s amazing how your quality of life can differ so drastically based on your choices.
As I have aged (gracefully I hope), I’ve realized that I’m running out of the most valuable thing in life that cannot be bought…time. Yes, I’ve made mistakes along the way…putting energy into things that didn’t matter, hung onto relationships that should’ve ended sooner, and so many other things. But as I allow myself to sit and sift through the noise, I have given myself the room to forgive myself and know I want to make the most out of what time I do have left. Do crazy stuff as long as my body allows it, make it count and make it meaningful…because someday, I want the people I leave behind to celebrate my life the way I did for my grandma.