My Grandmother’s Memorial Is This Weekend
My Grandmother’s memorial service is this weekend. She lived to be nearly 95 years old. So, I am looking back on her life and the many beautiful memories I have with her. I am sorting through old letters and photos and spending time remembering many moments with her.
Of course this has me reflecting on my own life and asking a question I ask myself often … how do I want to be remembered?
This exercise of imagining the qualities that others will remember about me first found its way to me in my 20s. I can’t recall which book introduced it, but it has stayed with me. I find it to be an excellent way to remind me of the qualities I want to embody and how I want to show up in the world.
For me it’s not so much about what I want to “do”, but how I want to “be”.
You see, as I reflect on the most memorable moments with my dear grandmother, it’s not the big things she did – although there were plenty – it’s the way she made me feel when I was with her that meant the most to me. The qualities she embodied every day in the “little every day moments” – that’s what I remember and cherish most. Those are the moments where her true essence shone on me. And, in doing so, she reflected back to me how she saw me – and she saw only my best qualities!
My grandmother was a blessing in so many ways! She was many things to many people; daughter, sister, wife, mother, friend, delivery nurse, foster parent, volunteer, farmer, animal-lover, card “shark”, scrabble champion, and of course grandmother, then great-grandmother, and many more roles.
She did not have an easy life, far from it. One thing I can say with the utmost certainty is that she worked hard, externally and internally, to evolve herself beyond what she learned from her parents and to leave the next generation(s) much better off than she had been. She succeeded well in this.
The business of living wasn’t easy for my grandmother either. She was a person who felt things deeply (I’m like her in this way). Often the world was too harsh for her and it troubled her. It’s been decades since she could even stomach watching the nightly News. Her sensitivity was also her strength. Her capacity for empathy and compassion was evident in everything she did. The positive ripple effect of her life, her way of being, and how she uplifted others will be felt many generations in the future. This is the most precious and lasting legacy!
The world often rewards those that “do” big things, and so it’s easy to think that there is glory in the “doing”. It’s easy to be pulled into the “doing” trap. It happens often to me, because I have an inner drive that loves “doing”. But, the more I experience and the wiser I get, the more I realize that people quickly forget what you “did”. Even when they’ve rewarded you. The things we’ve done slip from memory rather quickly. Even our own.
What doesn’t slip from memory is how we made others feel. The qualities we embody and the way we make others feel, these are the things that stay with people. I believe the biggest impact I will ever make is in the moments of “being” with others, especially with my children and others that I love.
I believe that it’s not what we do, but how we make others feel that becomes our legacy. My grandmother often saw the best in people (I’m like her in that way too!)
My grandmother made me feel special, loved, and loveable. I can think of no greater gift to receive and I am eternally grateful. I aspire to do the same for others.
I’d like to invite you to take a few moments this week to reflect on these thoughts:
- How do you want to be remembered in life?
- How do you want to make others feel?
- How can you “be” these qualities more often?
My grandmother’s example of seeing the best in people and extending compassion will stay with me forever. She planted the seed of what has grown within me. My world view now includes the belief that we are all spiritual beings having a human experience and that we are all perfect, whole and complete as we are. We are every bit as magnificent as other beings she adored, like hummingbirds, peacocks, and robins.
My grandmother’s human experience has completed but her legacy of love and compassion lives on.
With so much gratitude,