After my grandfather passed away recently I have been in all honesty struggling to come to terms with the fact that I am so far away from home. I have, however, also been reflecting on the life lessons that my grandparents taught me and as they are so special I wanted to share two of them.
1. Love is best shown through actions not through words.
My grandparents did not often engage in public displays of affection. In their younger days, I don’t remember them holding hands ( aside from when they were dancing) or kissing each other or constantly telling each other how much love they felt. The love they shared was instead strikingly obvious in their actions. Married for 60 years, together even when injury, illness and the curse of Alzheimer’s tried to pull them apart. One of my most treasured memories is of my grandad sitting in the silence holding my grandma’s hand once she barely spoke or opened her eyes. She clutched a small soft toy in one hand and my grandad’s hand in her other hand and every now and again he would wipe her nose. He cared for her until the end when she slipped away to heaven sitting right by his side and the love and care that he showed in the last years of her life will for the rest of my life, be a lesson in how to love.
2. Value experiences over things
My grandparents worked hard throughout their life. As an immigrant, without formal education in English, my grandad worked three manual jobs simultaneously to support his family for a time and my grandma cycled to work in an office. They always paid cash for the things they bought and limited these ‘things’ with an eye on their long term future. We used to giggle about the way grandma used an old butter container as a soap dish in the kitchen, or the way they would share one can of soup and water it down to stretch it further but this frugal lifestyle meant that on retirement my grandparents were able to see the world. They cruised to far off exotic places like Venezuala and Fiji and before we emigrated to New Zealand, they were the only members of my family who had ever been here, half a world away. As a young girl I plotted their travels on my globe that lit up at the touch of a switch and I would marvel at just how amazing travel must be and the sights that existed out there to see. In their later years, when Alzheimer’s first started to take part of my grandma away, she would come back when grandad showed her the photo album, showing the precious value of experience.
From both of these precious life lessons, I have learned the significance of action, of doing rather than just saying, of experiencing instead of just collecting ‘things’that ultimately have no value. In the busyness of my life, it is easy to think that saying I love you makes up for taking the time to show my love through action and to think that if I get more stuff it will somehow magically transform me into the person I have always wanted to be or bring a greater sense of meaning to my life. My grandad always wanted me to become a teacher, but I know that the lessons he and grandma taught me will always be more treasured than any of the hundreds of lessons I have prepared will ever be.