Wednesday, August 17, 2011

a life lived, a family fragmented, and the choices we make.

on tuesday my grandma passed away.

she was my only living grandparent, and the one who i had been closest with when growing up.  my grandmother was beautiful, and classy and elegant.  she chose to see the best in people, was generous with everything she had, and loved to laugh.  she had a fantastic sense of humor.  she was a musician, an amazing singer, a graceful dancer.

we went on family vacations with my grandma, she lived in her own apartment in my house for several years.  i used to sit on her couch, eating popcorn and watching the latest trashy show on the lifetime channel with her.  she would fill me in on the plot if i came in late.

"this young girl was raped by her stepfather and now she's pregnant with his baby!  but she hasn't told her mother yet, because her mother's an alcoholic and she doesn't think she'll believe her!"

i wasn't very interested in the shows, but i loved watching them with my grandma.

she was a breast cancer survivor, and had been diagnosed just before the death of her husband.  she underwent a single mastectomy only a couple of weeks after his funeral.  i held onto her hand on the night of the surgery.  she woke up at one point, and didn't know who i was because she was on such heave pain medication.

"who's there?" she asked.

"it's me, grandma," i answered.  and said my name.

"oh, i thought you were an angel.  your hand feels like the hand of an angel to me,"  she said clearly.  and she asked me to stay longer, and hold her hand.

so i sat next to her, holding her hand until it was time for me to go.

i used to sneak up on her, and scare her and she would scream and then laugh we would both laugh hysterically.  her hearing wasn't great, so she would constantly mix up what people were saying and come up with some crazy interpretations.  then i would tell her what had really been said, and she would throw her head back and giggle.  she refused to get a hearing aid though, i'm not sure why.

she always smelled good, and had an amazing fashion sense.  she always looked put together.  i remember many times my friends commenting about how beautiful she was.  she had gorgeous blue eyes, and a fabulous smile.

she was an amazing cook.  the best spaghetti meat sauce i had ever tasted, amazing home made macaroni and cheese, and delicious cakes.  

my nickname for her was "little lady" and every time i called her that she told me how much she loved it.

"please take care of yourself, little lady,"  i would say at the end of every phone call.

"i'll always be your little lady," she would always reply.


the last time we spoke was two weeks ago.  i called her to tell her about the birth of my newest baby, a girl, whose middle name she shared with my grandma and also my mother in-law.  i told my grandma that my daughter was named after two amazing women.  she cried and said how much it meant to her.

i asked her how she was feeling, and she said that she had not been well.  she had been in and out of the hospital for the past month, her lungs had been filling up with fluid.  she was on oxygen all of the time, and she told me she felt like she was dying.  she said she was tired, and felt ready to go.  she said she would endure for as long as the lord needed her to, but that she hoped it would not be much longer.

i wasn't prepared for this, and i cried.  i thanked her for being such a good grandmother to me.  one that was not perfect, but who did the best she could.  i knew that she loved me and i told her how much i loved her.

i was so grateful that i had called.

i mailed out the birth announcement to her right away, hoping it would get there in time for her to see her new great-granddaughter.  it arrived the day before she died.


i went to her funeral in utah last week.

because of mistakes made in the past, my grandmother's family has been fragmented...broken into pieces that only a funeral could bring together.

i watched as we gathered around, bound by blood and a woman who started this chain and legacy of human life.  but there was not much else that was in common, now many of us were strangers. 

there were hugs.  some embraced awkwardly, stiff and forced.  the internal walls that were put up were almost visible.

others were holding on during those hugs as if to say that the time lapsed in between them had been a waste, and to let the past be in the past.  that what had happened wasn't worth the loss.  and bitterness began to fade.

for those who chose it, there was reacquainting.  and laughing.  and apologizing.  and forgiving.  and trying.  and loving.


in church on sunday, a man who was probably a few years younger than me gave a talk that affected me.  normally i'm distracted by children and sippy cups and breaking up fights.  but this sunday, it was just my newborn daughter who was sleeping quietly in my arms.  and i could listen.

one quote that stuck out to me in this man's talk was this:

"We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms -- to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way.”

 --viktor frankl, "man's search for meaning"

when he quoted this man who had literally had everything taken from him, it clicked.  and i thought of the funeral of my grandmother that i had been to the day before.

i had watched this fragmented family, and wondered how we had all gotten here.

i mean, i knew the events leading up to the break in relationships.  but in the end, it had really been about choices.

the choice to offend.

the choice to be offended.

the choice to remain a victim.

the choice to be afraid to face things, the choice to avoid.

the choice to remain angry.  the choice to remain hurt.

the choice to stay away.

the choice to lose.

the choice to let someone else's actions decide another's emotions.

but in this life, we are given our free will.  the ability to choose for ourselves.

for the past year and a half, i have been working on this.

i am still working.

what i did see that day at the funeral was that putting the blame on someone else so that we don't have to look in the mirror and be accountable for our own actions and feelings, is the choice to be a coward.

it isn't easy to admit that there are things about ourselves that we don't like.  i know that firsthand.  it's even more difficult to see those things and to work on them.  digging them out where they have been buried underneath the surface, sometimes for years.  and changing them.  some of them are wounds that have literally defined and shaped the person that i was for so long.

but i have the choice too.  the choice to be different.  to not let my past define me, and to not let anyone decide my future except for myself.  how i react, what i believe in, whether or not i choose to be offended.  it is up to me.

i looked down at my sweet baby girl, who was carrying the name of my grandmother. 

and i realized that it wasn't just for me that i have been working so hard.  it's for my children.  so that it might be an opportunity to teach them a different way, through what i have been learning.  that no matter the circumstances, we always have a choice.

to choose to stand up for what is right.

to choose to not be offended.

to choose to trust again.

to choose to not give my power away any longer.

to choose to stop feeling guilty for everything.

to choose to forgive.

to choose to surround myself with those who know who i am, and who will treat me with respect and kindness.

to choose to look for the good in people.

to choose to allow myself to heal.

to choose to let it go.

to choose to let others take their own actions upon them, instead of carrying it for them.

to choose to love myself.

to choose happiness.


Rachel Chick said...

You are so beautiful, Lynsey. I love you with my whole heart. Thank you for all that you teach me. If you've never read the book, "The Hiding Place" you should. It's amazing. And teaches a lot of those same principles. It's one that has stayed with me for years and years. I think you'd enjoy it.

Sarah and Addison said...

Thank you so much for writing this. I have been working very hard to forgive someone who hurt me very much and continues to try to hurt me. I think often that if I allow myself to stay angry and offended then I am only allowing him to continue controlling my life. I control me, not him. That is a valuable lesson I hope I can teach my daughter as well. It is a hard lesson to learn and even harder to live. I love the talk by Elder Bednar "And Nothing Shall Offend Them" in the 2006 Oct. Conference. Very much related to this topic.

Erika said...

This was beautifully written and I hope I can teach my children those same things.

ohmylanta said...

I am sorry about the loss of your grandmother. I can really relate to the emotions of that experience . This next week I will be holding the hand of my closest grandmother as she fights cancer. It is so hard to see them suffer - especially when they are ready to go and be at peace. I hope you are feeling comforted in her absence.

Also, Thank you for your words on CHOICE. I needed that. This last week I sent a letter to someone that I have offended. My past responses to this person have proven me to be a coward, and I have been feeling like one for a while. It felt good to put those cowardly ways behind me as I tried to make restitution.

I too have been "peeling back my layers" (as I say) to identify those things that I must change about myself so that I can become a sweetly seasoned and wise woman like our grandmothers are.