Thursday, January 22, 2009

Live Like You Were Dying

One week ago was my grandma’s funeral. I thought that I would be able to deal with it just fine. I had spent an enormous amount of time with her in the past couple months. She was ready to die and ready to be out of pain. I even had a chance to say goodbye which I am glad that I took. However, her funeral was hard on me. I guess I didn’t realize quite how much I would miss her. It is hard to realize how much you will miss someone when you have always had them. While sitting at the funeral I wrote a few notes of the things that I have learned from my grandma. I hope that these can help someone else live like they were dying. I am going to start with a quote by Henry David Thoreau:

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life

I feel that my grandma sucked the marrow out of life with all the energy that she had right until the end. I will now share some things that I have learned from her.

• Dance everyday – My grandma loved to dance. She met her husband dancing. She danced all the way up until she got polio in her late twenties. She wasn’t able to dance the rest of her life, I think that I need to help make up for the fact that she didn’t get to dance as much as she would have liked to.

• Experience nature every chance you get – She didn’t get out very much the last several years of her life. Ever since she had polio it was hard for her to go anywhere. When I spent time with her in the last few months she would always look out the window to see if there were any deer in her backyard. She always looked for the Quail that lived in her yard. Every time we walked past the window she would stop and appreciate nature. She didn’t get very many chances in the last few years of her life to go up in the mountains, but I do have that opportunity and I am certainly going to take advantage of it.

• Laugh – She told jokes right to the end. Even if she was in so much pain she still told jokes and laughed at her own jokes. She was so funny.

• Smile – She never really frowned. She was in so much pain all the time, but she always smiled. I think that that added so much to her life. I hope I can smile through it all also.

• Attend the temple often – She only had enough energy to go out a couple times a week. She would go to church and the temple. This really made me think-- if I could only go out once a week would I go the temple?

• Walk on your own two feet as long as you can – When I took care of her these last couple months there was something that I didn’t understand at first. She hardly had any energy. It took so much out of her for her to walk with her walker. Yet she still refused to get into the wheelchair to get from her bed into her chair on the other side of the house. Sometimes it took half an hour for her to go from one to the other (with a sit-down break in the middle). Why was she like this? I am still not completely sure, but I think that I have an idea. All she could do on her own anymore was to make the trek from her bed to her chair. She was determined to do all she could on her own and then get help with what she couldn’t do. Her spirit of independence was inspiring. I got the feeling that she could do anything that she put her mind to.

• Share what is important to you with those you love – Grandma always called her kids to tell them when there was something good on TV. She called to give and receive updates on the rest of the family. She always was there for anyone who was struggling. One year ago she sent me a hand written letter. This letter must have taken her several hours to write with her shaky hand. She enclosed one of her favorite talks and said how she was praying for me and was trying to help me with my life. That letter still means a great deal to me.

• Reach out to help everyone you can – Grandma never complained about her health. There was only one thing that she said that was even close to complaining. She often said that she wished she was stronger so that she could help more. She always wanted to help her kids and grandkids. She did so much good with helping us pay for our missions and college. She always was so generous with her money. She would help in any way that she could. I hope that I can put forth as much effort as she did to help those around her.

• Spend time with children – She loved her grandchildren and her great-grandchildren. She loved spending time with small children and loved when they would visit. I think this is something that can keep anyone focused on what is important. It is easier to keep in mind what is important when you are spending time with young children.

• Use adversity as stepping stones – Grandma had bad health her whole adult life. Instead of using it to inhibit her she would use it as an aid for you more rapid progress. She was always so humble, appreciative and loving. I really think she used her obstacles to help her achieve these wonderful qualities in great abundance.

• Love – This is the quality that she had in such great abundance. She had so much love for everyone. She showed love for everyone. I always felt her love every time I was in the room with her. I realize that this is something that is hard to gain for all of us. How do we deal with being hurt? How do we overcome selfishness? How do we forget about ourselves and just focus on others? I don’t know the answers to these questions, but I believe that the answers lie in grandma’s life. I intend to find them. I want so bad to love like grandma did. I intend to work towards that end in honor of grandma and all others who have loved me.

I learned so much from grandma. She lived like she was dying her whole life. She did her best to live each moment to the fullest. I will miss her, but I will also make sure that she will live on in me. When I see a deer in the mountains I will watch its grace for an extra second for grandma. When I see a sunset I will try and linger a moment longer realizing how much grandma would have loved it. But most of all I will continue to try to live by the motto “Dance like nobody’s watching and love like you’ve never been hurt.” Thanks grandma for everything. I guess I will see you in a few years when it is my turn to move on to the next great adventure. Goodbye Grandma.


Kayli said...

A few years? I hope you're here a lot longer than that!

Jared, your grandma sounds like she was an amazing lady; she must have passed it on to you. I'm glad you wrote about her, and I'll be sure to include all of those simple things into my life to make it even happier!

Robyn said...

My Grandma passed away just before I was married. She had been sick for a long time too. I am still suprised when I still have a tear in my eye when I start to miss her.
Thanks for the thoughts about your Grandma. It made me have some nice thoughts about my own Grandma.

Heather said...

Thanks for sharing the special qualities about your grandma. It's so important to remember how great our grandparents are and become better because of them. I cannot think about the incredible person my grandma was without desiring to be better. The memory I have of my grandparents also makes me instantly feel unconditionally loved and supported. They are one of the biggest blessings in my life. I can tell your grandma was that for you too. Grandparents sure do play an important role in life, don't they?

Amy said...

Jared that was so sweet thanks! I loved Grandma too and have learned a lot from her as well! She was a great woman and now she will watch over us from above!

patty said...

A bunch of what you wrote reminded me of you. I appreciate that you feel you need to make up your grandma's lost years of dancing. great way of thinking of it. I see these qualities a lot in my grandparents. I'm grateful that we have such inspiring family members.

Carrie Johanson said...

Jared, thanks for sharing. When are you going to come visit?

Jeff said...

This was a great tribute to your grandma and it contained some great life lessons. I'm glad you learned so many things from her. Those lessons will live on in you until you are able to see her again.

Lace said...

Jared W, thank you so much for this post. Sometimes it takes hard experiences to remember what life is really about. Thank you for teaching me some great life lessons!

Patricia Stevenson said...

I was impressed that you volunteered so much of your time to take care of Grandma, thank you for making so many sacrifices for her. Grandma, Grandpa, and the whole family love & appreciate you! Very nice post.

Heather Stevenson said...

Club Chocolate Jared. It's a great way to make up for lost dancing time.

Jessica said...

Jared thank you so much for letting me know about this post about grandma. It was perfect! I loved it all. I wasn't planning on crying anymore today but this post really touched my heart. I am SO GRATEFUL that Grandma had you around to take care of her the past few months. What a blessing to be able to spend so much time with her even if it was hard on her to talk or move around. I know it meant a lot to her that you were there. Thank you! e-mail me if you want access to my family blog at

Mary said...

Jared, I know at the funeral luncheon you said that you were not sure of your "job description". Well, for us you will never realize how much we appreciated a loving family member being with Grandma each day. We know her last days were difficult but she had someone who loved and cared about her with her 24/7 . Thanks for being such an important player on the "loving-Grandma-team"! Treasure the letter that Grandma wrote you. Love, Aunt Mary