As most of the people in my life know, my lovely grandmother, Faye, passed away a couple weeks ago. However, I am indescribably fortunate to have had the chance to go to London with her in 2012. One thing I just really remember well is, while walking down the street from Bayswater tube station to our hotel, I brought up one of my favorite lists of things to remember:
- Whoever comes are the right people
- Whatever happens is the only thing that could have
- Whenever it starts is the right time
- When it’s over, it’s over
I don’t remember the context of the conversation, and I don’t really remember her reaction to it, no matter how much I wish I could. One reason I like these points so much is because it helps me remember that there are things I just can’t control – especially timing and the way some things turn out.
These points are particularly poignant for me in the wake of her passing. in times like these, I think we all tend to reflect upon things we feel we could have done differently or done sooner or things we should have said. For me, the most significant thing was getting over a huge obstacle in my relationship with Grammy. For years, I went through this angsty, resentful, and jaded phase with her in the wake of her first husband’s death (more me/my issues than her). Thanks to time and also our trip together, we had lots of opportunities to talk through a lot of this (and more).
“Whenever it starts is the right time.” I have to accept that this healing process for our relationship started when it was the right time for it to start. I know I gained so much life experience and perspective and maturity in the time between Granddaddy’s death in 2004 and our trip in 2012. I have to think that that time and that growing process were things I had to go through in order to get to a level where I could meet her in conversation about it.
“Whatever happens is the only thing that could have.” Obviously, this is a significant concept while dealing with the death of a loved one. What if she hadn’t been where she was or doing what she was doing or dealing with what she was dealing with? Couldn’t we have made it better or hold on to her longer if one thing or another was different? Blah blah blah, and the list goes on as long as we let it. It means we can fret all we want about changing the past, but the important thing is to learn to accept it and reflect on ways you can help yourself heal and continue on. (Not “move on.” I don’t think you ever really move on from a pain or loss of some one dear to you. Continue on. Keep going.) There’s nothing that could have gone any differently, and that’s really okay.
“Whoever comes are the right people.” At the viewings for my grandmother, the lines of the visitors were out the door. Each one had their own story about ways my grandmother had touched their life or helped them in one way or another. Some were even people who had met her when she just started talking to them while waiting in line somewhere. When people come into your life, there’s always something you can get from interacting with them. Sometimes the influence and presence of others is very clear and loud; sometimes their influence is quiet and only comes into your perspective later in life.
Sometimes the people in our lives hurt us. Sometimes we fall into unhealthy patterns with others. As much as it flat-out sucks to be honest about this, there is still always a takeaway. Now, I can tell you “everything happens for a reason” as much as any other person, greeting card, keychain, poster, song, or status in the world tries to, but what I need you to know is that I’m not actually confident that there really is any light, simple, logical reason behind every little thing that happens. Stuff happens that doesn’t make any sense.
The only thing I can say is that there can probably always be something you learn or experience or takeaway from these times. And I need you to know that these revelations come when you don’t know they will. You will overhear one of your classmates talking; your barista will make some small-talk with you; you will read a text message or a Facebook comment; you will listen to a song you’ve heard a thousand times over and you will hear something strange and new; you will re-read a book and have a completely different experience; some one will simply ask you how you are. It’ll click. Or, you’ll become aware of something lurking in your head and you will wrestle with it until you can verbalize and define it. You’ll make connections between events, quotes, shared glances, lyrics, and thoughts. Don’t worry about trying to find some elusive meaning or a silver lining in the midst of dark and confusing events. Try, instead, to remember to keep yourself open to and aware of anything you may feel or think or need. Notice everything. Write about it. In a week, six months, three years, a decade, you may make one of these connections; you will gain some understanding and perspective.
It’s more than likely that this conversation I had with my grandmother happened after finding out that her mother figure had passed away back home while we were in London, which makes me all the more curious about her internal reaction to them. I’m sure this list meant even more to her than it did to me at the time.
“When it’s over, it’s over.”