Within 30 minutes after attending my grandpa’s funeral, on the highway driving back to Chicago, my siblings + I almost got in a serious car accident.
My brother was driving in the left hand lane of the highway, + a car in the right lane swiped over with no left blinker on, cutting in extremely close to our car. My brother beeped, thinking the car just wasn’t paying attention. Then, we watched in horror that car continue to slide left, past the left shoulder, + into the dirt median. The car started spinning, + dirt surrounded the car like a cloud — you could barely see the bright red car. My brother moved to the right lane, + at the same time the car continued spinning, + started moving back to the right lane. It was inches away from us. My brother drove as far right as possible, accelerated the car, + passed the car that continued to spin out of control behind us. We called 911.
This all happened in seconds. As soon as I processed what had just happened, I immediately broke down, hysterically crying. We were moments away from a serious accident — one that could have killed us.
It was the first time I truly grasped the reality: rarely [if ever] do we have total control over external situations, but we always have control over how we respond.
We will all die. I hope you all live a long, beautiful, happy life — but the reality is… you could die at the end of this year…. tomorrow…. in an hour. This moment is all we have.
While we all know that we are going to die, it’s rare that we have experiences that really put this reality into the forefront of our mind in a tangible way. This near-accident experience, paired with both of my grandfathers’ deaths this summer, did that for me. Chances are, as I become farther removed from this day, this reality is going to slip away from me. That is why I am writing this — so I can come back to it + remember that life can be taken away from me in an instant… I must choose to be awake + live each moment intentionally.
Both of grandfathers — Papa + Grandpa — were incredible men. They both had very different personalities, but both taught me so much. I hope to carry them in my heart, + live out their gifts…
#1] “Take it easy, babe + keep the faith.”
Those were the last words my Papa said to me. He was known for his phrase, keep the faith. Papa was an incredibly spiritual person — he was so devoted to his Catholic faith. Even when he couldn’t get out of his chair, he had the priest come over to his house for the sacrament of Reconciliation every week.
While I love the phrase keep the the faith + hold it dearly in my heart — I think I like take it easy, babe even more. Papa was very strict, + had a “regalness” about him [we called him The Legacy]. I think his strong, harder outer shell was due to fact that he grew up in the Great Depression, served in WW2, got struck by lightning, had tuberculosis, raised six kids, was a ~big wig~ at General Motors when the automobile industry was booming, etc. But, in his older years, I could see the lightness shine out of him + his gentle, tender side came out more frequently. He realized that life shouldn’t be taken so seriously all the time, instead… take it easy.
#2] Live simply, + love abundantly
One of my all time favorite verses — 1 Corinthians 13: 4–7, 13 — was read at Grandpa’s funeral:
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. ++ now these three remain: faith, hope + love. But the greatest of these is love.
These verses describe Grandpa to a T. Grandpa was a simple man, always with a smile on his face showing love. His greatest passions were farming, going to church, + being with my Grandma//family. Rarely did I ever see Grandpa leave Grandma’s side, even for the simplest tasks like going to the grocery store or getting gas. When Grandma died, Grandpa talked about how he was lonely + just wanted someone to “drive around with.” He loved Grandma so much that he died a day before her birthday, surprising her in heaven to sing happy birthday to her.
#3] Family is everything
Both Papa + Grandpa were family men. I can see both of them in their chairs— Papa telling stories, + Grandpa smiling silently… both watching sports with the family gathered around. They took so much pride in their family, + always made sure the entire crew came together a few times per year. One night recently, my Grandpa was in his chair, hanging with my cousins. It was obvious that he was exhausted — his eyes kept closing. My cousin told him to go bed, + he said, “Of course I can’t go to bed! I don’t want to miss anything.”
It’s easy to take your family for granted — I know I do. Read this article. I’ve been making it a priority to see my family once a month… but after both of my grandfathers’ deaths, once a month isn’t enough — I want to squeeze every ounce of family time I possibly can. I’m going to utilize FaceTime more, too — a quick call means so much.
#4] WWGD? — What Would Grandpa Do?
At the wake, my dad said — “You know, a lot of people live by the saying WWJD — what would Jesus do? But, I always lived by the saying what would dad do? In my entire life, I’ve never seen him angry, impatient, rude — never raise his voice once. He was always kind.” My grandpa was truly the kindest person I’ve ever met… even though he suffered emotionally + physically so much — his dad died at age 13, his mom left the kids in foster care + pretended she didn’t have any sons when he tried to reconnect with her decades later, had cancer twice, a rod in his back, a drainage device in his head, + so many other ailments.
We found out [after the fact], that he was throwing up every day for a month before he finally went into the hospital. He didn’t want to bother people, so he didn’t tell anyone… my aunt found out when she randomly checked up on him + his entire house smelled like puke. This makes me so sad, but shows his character — he silently suffered + gave everything up to God. He devoted his life to the people around him, + cared about them more than his own self.
#5] Handmade cards
Okay, this was actually my Grandma T’s gift. She would design ALL of her cards — birthdays, christmas, random notes. You could tell how much care + effort she put into each one. Writing cards is a pretty rare occurrance… let alone MAKING cards. It definitely gave me inspo to make my own cards for people… maybe starting with just their birthdays. ; )
Keep the faith. Take it easy. Spend more time with famiy. Live simply. Love abundantly. Be kind. Design + write cards. I could go on + on, but I believe that those are the greatest gifts from them that I hope to carry throughout my life’s journey.
Death is a reminder that nothing on this earth is permanent. Find the comfort in that. Love every moment fully with each breath. Now is all we have.
I love you, Papa + Grandpa. Until we meet again,