The day my grandfather died in July 2011, I was sent to the grocery store. Surely family members would be coming and going throughout the afternoon to pay their respects, check in on my grandmother, drop off cards and food and most importantly hugs. There wasn’t much a 21-year-old can really do to be helpful on days like these, but a trip to the grocery store to pick up snacks and drinks for the house was something I could do.
As I reached the register on the afternoon of my grandfather’s passing, conveyor belt loaded with a few 12-packs of Coke, Diet Coke and Sprite, a case of water, a bag of pretzels and a bag of potato chips, the cashier looked at me and smiled. “Looks like fun. Are you getting ready for a party?”
I remember laughing and nodding (lying) yes, thinking how incorrect the statement was. The day was anything but a party. Any celebrating of life certainly wasn’t going to begin until the funeral home came, until the hospice equipment was removed, until we could sit. And think. And reflect.
And I’d forgotten about this little story and the cashier’s smile until last Thursday, the day my grandmother died. When 22-year-old me took a trip to the grocery store to pick up a few 12-packs of Coke, Diet Coke and Sprite, and a case of water.
No chips or pretzels this time.
A year ago, I thought about obituaries. Life resumes. The stories that, at the end, people read in the paper.
I talked to my Grandpa two days before he passed away. A good, good conversation, the exact details of which don’t need to be in any blog to be remembered. And they won’t be.
But the way he held my eye contact. Squeezed my hand when we talked about the kids. Made the greatest “You’re kidding!” sounding exclamation, loud and urgent, when I told him I’d spent time with a nice, “handsome as you” boy (Ryan, you asked how you get in the blog, I said do something crazy- Grandpa Ed qualified that as going on a date two).
It was as perfect as a goodbye could be.
It’s days like today where I think a lot of people question exactly what they’re doing at the moment. If the story of my life was put in the paper today, what would it say? Would I be proud of it? Would it require lines of detail or a short, generic blurb? Is there anything I can do tonight, by tomorrow, that will make it better?
Last week, I talked to my Grandmother two days before she passed away.
I told her it was raining. I told her President Obama was in town. I told her Ryan was thinking about making dinner at my house that night, and I told her Carly was singing with the honor choir at Disneyland.
I’d been thinking a lot about timing and choices that week. I’d been debating my strong belief in fate and not believing things happen by coincidence. Meant to be (or not to be). Is there good luck? Bad luck?
And bedside that day, as I rambled on about updates on job, weather, boy and the local news, who knows what Grandma heard, or understood. In the final stages of cancer and its cruel side effects, who knew what she meant to say or thought she said.
But the only thing she said to me, except for a “love you” to my “I love you, I’ll see you later,” the entire time I rambled on at her bedside…
The only thing she said was a crystal clear “You don’t have any luck.”
And gosh, it made me giggle at the time. It actually made me defend myself, the insecure little dork I am. “Well, I think I do – I mean, I have a great family – I mean… my friends are good, my job seems to like me, I think, and my boyfriend, well, he’s cute…”
But a few days later, giggles aside, I was still thinking about luck and chance. Fate and meant to be. About how life goes, planned and unplanned. What gets on that life resume. What counts. What matters.
I’ve thought about the bucket list, and I looked back at last summer’s bucket list thoughts.
There’s the idealistic “fantasies that could become real” bucket list. Publish a book and go on a book tour. Stand on every continent. Get pulled on stage at a major concert. Get married, have kids. Let’s hope that’s less fantasy/more reality. Be on the Today Show for a good reason.
Okay that’s not really one, but I’ve discovered a bucket list item is now to write a better bucket list.
But its the everyday things and dreams that are the foundation of my life. Laughing so hard I cry, even if it’s at a wildly inappropriate time or because I unintentionally just made a painfully awkward comment. Helping someone out, whether it’s giving them a hand or an ear. Singing loudly in my car because I can. Every, every day. Multiple times.
The things that can’t be a constant but can happen at any moment. Being surprised. Surprising someone. Busting a move in a crowded space. Slow-dancing in a quiet setting. Trying something new. Mastering something old. Being fiercely, hopelessly, independent. Falling madly, hopelessly, in love.
When I went to write this post, I went back to last year’s to see what had changed, for I know I have.
In the past year, I’ve gone from backpacking through Europe with no plans and no obligations to hanging frames filled with photos of Europe on my walls to make my apartment my home.
In the past year, I’ve created more and written smarter. I’ve observed more and photographed better. I’ve traveled far. I’ve come home.
But in the past year, those best things, those simple joys, haven’t changed.
They’ve only become more appreciated. Because you can’t always be singing in the shower, especially when you’re in the hostel’s public showers. And you can’t always be busting a move in a crowded place. Especially during church. Or in Walmart. And you can’t fall madly in love on command, because there’s no guarantee on how or if or when that is going to happen. Or, you know, if it’s going to be mutual. And slow dancing with your fiercely independent self isn’t fun. Especially if you don’t know how to lead.
And maybe appreciating what you have – despite what you don’t, and what you’ve lost – and living to the fullest of your capabilities is living right.
Like when my grandmother, a 38-year-old widow, took her four sons and one daughter in an RV throughout Canada and the United States for six weeks.
I think she did it. I think she lived right.
And now, the rest of us – family, friends, me, you – are to move forward toward all that is planned and unplanned for our stories.
What’s meant to be (or not meant to be).
And maybe enjoy a little good luck.