WE CAN (AND SHOULD) LEARN IN LOSS

My grandpa died recently as a young 92-year-old. Undoubtedly, he lived a FULL life. Even though his death was expected due to general decline over the last year, the actual occurrence of his death was still much harder than I anticipated. Likewise, I have been reflecting on it. There is much to learn in loss, no matter how prepared you think you are.

Consequently, no amount of prep truly softens the blow of their presence suddenly gone. In turn, everything tied up in memories and stories.

Grandpa really did enjoy most things in life. Even the things he didn’t enjoy, he tolerated in what can only be described as a laid-back manner. He left a legacy with his family through writing and storytelling. He LOVED to share stories. In fact, often found ways to relate a current circumstance to a story he remembered or something he had been through.

Therefore, I thought I would take this opportunity to share what I learned in his loss.

EVERYONE HAS A STORY

Everyone has a story became his mantra over the years. Even though I heard this a number of times in my youth, it didn’t dawn on me until recently it’s likely why I started doing my own writing.

What’s your story? What do you want your legacy to be?

On the Linking Indy Women Instagram Live interview a few months ago, I spoke about an idea I have around the concept of everyone has a story. Writing about everyday people because when you get down to it, everyone has a story to share.

I’m a connector and networker by nature. Consequently, I’m fascinated by people’s stories. The mail lady, janitor, CEO, officemate, cashier, barista, you name it, they have one worth hearing. People naturally seem to just open up and tell me things albeit sometimes shocking! LOL.

Insert palm to forehead here. My everyone has a story idea is not original. This is my grandpa’s legacy. But when you hear a message so often, it naturally becomes a part of you. You live it. His mantra to life becoming so much a part of me, only reflection of learning in loss highlighting the source.

YOUR STORY

It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking our story is no big deal. Just like strengths. Often people downplay their strengths because it comes natural to them. The very reason it is so easy being the fact it IS a strength. Additionally, others admire it. Same with stories. It doesn’t feel unique because you are living in it. Nevertheless, it’s your story to share!

I remember my first meeting with colleagues from New York at the NBA. I shared the fact I grew up on a hog farm. First off, something I thought was a simple enough statement. Secondly, not so odd since I’d lived in it my entire life. Despite this normal fact to me, you could have heard a pin drop. “Excuse me, WHAT? Do tell!” But I digress…. Everyone has a story and its uniqueness is more amazing than you think.

My grandpa told stories. He would often say “stop me if I’ve told you this.” Let’s be honest, especially later in his life, I had likely heard the story at least twenty times prior. Truth be told, even if I did say he’d told me already, he was going to re-hash it anyway because he loved to share.

Learn in loss- Share your story and listen to others share theirs. You won’t regret it.

IMPACT ON KIDS

Our boys spent the weekend of their Papa Deuce’s visitation and funeral with the adults. As the older of their cousin clan, I anticipated them wanting to draw back into video games or a movie at the end of the day. Instead though, they relished in the story telling. I’m the oldest of four and sharing stories and laughing together is a highlight whenever we all have the chance to visit. Clearly, we get the genes honest….

However, what I recognized for maybe the first time in my own children was watching them being drawn into the stories. Maybe this came from feeling like they were suddenly part of the “big kid club” since they made it through the duration of all of the events. Or maybe they were just too tired to move to the other room and turn on a movie.

Whatever the reason, they delighted in the storytelling and the laughter. Jake, in particular, couldn’t get enough of it. He broke out into laughter a few times the next day about something said the day prior.

The experience was a good reminder for me. It’s often easier to give the boys a device or turn on a movie when I want to visit with other adults. On the other hand, watching them as a part of this interaction and what their inclusion meant was eye-opening. We absolutely had to stop short on a few stories ensuring they were age appropriate! (Hey Uncle Griff…. He’s only 11!!) But at the end of the day, they enjoyed the experience.

Learn in loss- Don’t underestimate the impact of including the kids in storytelling time. Age appropriate of course.

EASY-GOING

My grandpa was about as easy-going as they come. A funny phrase he often uttered when something surprised him, “Oh… welp-ph!!” My spelling probably not doing this phrase justice.

Even so, it’s often imitated by his children, grandchildren, and now great grandchildren both with and without him present. It makes me smile even as I type this.

He had the ability to stay calm in the craziest of circumstances. I honestly cannot remember a time he was seriously rattled over ANYTHING. And this is coming from his granddaughter who lived a quarter of a mile down the road and had siblings constantly doing something they weren’t supposed to be doing. (not me of course.)

This also includes him pulling into oncoming traffic with no physical reaction to the danger at hand. Or flipping the car into park on the regular without being fully stopped coming to a jolting halt. “Oh..welp-ph!”

I think we can all agree 2020 can be summed up with the simple phrase of “WTH???” Every time I turn around something new and unfathomable happening in the world. With the loss of grandpa and now the loss of at least part our kids’ fall semester of in-person school, I’ve started to create a number of parallels. Maybe the next blog post will create all of the parallels for you. But for now, my approach to virtual school and the world seemingly imploding upon itself is going to be my grandpa’s easy-going approach with a simple “Oh….welp-ph!”

Learn in loss- There really isn’t anything too big to overcome. Stay calm. Stay the course. And if you can’t think of something nice to say about someone, just use my grandpa’s line. “They are a great example of a bad example.” (think about it for a second…. there you go!)

Learn in loss- grandparents with 4 grandkids posing at Christmas

Our grandparents -always present. Not just for holidays but all life events big and small.

LAUGH AT YOURSELF

Grandpa was a master at laughing at himself. A great lesson for all of us.

One particular “party trick” required him lying on the floor on his back. The back of his head could not touch the ground if his heels were on the ground. Consequently, if you pushed his head down to the ground, his feet would in turn pop up from the floor. Like a seesaw. While I don’t remember him EVER being flexible, this was on another level of stiff. And HILARIOUS.

My aunt made the discovery when a pillow accidentally got knocked out from under his head, but his head didn’t fall to the ground. LAUGHTER ERUPTED! But it didn’t stop there. This became a party trick every time a new person came to the house who hadn’t seen how our grandpa’s head and heels couldn’t touch the floor at the same time!!!

How often do we take ourselves too seriously? We forget or think we shouldn’t laugh at our shortcomings. Not only was he not a stiff about it (pun FULLY intended), but also obliged us continuing to get down on the floor and show this to all of our friends. Our very own grandpa party trick.

Learn in loss- Don’t take yourself too seriously. A dose of laughter will probably do some good.

Learn in Loss- Heather and 3 siblings with grandparents making silly faces

Strike a silly pose!

SUMMARY

Loss is hard, but there is so much to be learned from those no longer with us. It’s easy to put them on a pedestal when they are no longer in our presence.

I feel fortunate this pedestal is warranted. Not from a place of perfection or being what social standards are for successful, but rather from a place of being a human. Being my grandpa.

He had the ability to be welcoming and warm. Obviously he was not perfect, but also could laugh at his shortcomings. He was successful by social standards, but those are not the memories people shared about being in his presence. And that’s not how his children, grandchildren, or great grandchildren will remember him.

They will remember his knack for storytelling, his ability to laugh at himself and life circumstances, his easy-going demeanor, and the fact, everyone has a story to share.

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