The Truth About Grief, Part Two

Alternatively titled, five things my grandpa taught me

Every time I see a plane, I can hear him laugh.

“Where do you think that plane is headed to Calamity?” It was our favourite guessing game, one that we played ever since I could talk. We would always make up fun destinations, but we never knew where it was heading. But on August 20, without being asked the question, I had the answer.

“Home, Papa,” I whispered, hoping that he could hear me in heaven, if it does exist. “You’re going home.”

Grief, to say the least, is a f*cking b!tch (pardon my language).

When I was little, I learned the definition of the word heartbreak. I remember wondering if you could physically feel when it happens. I found out my answer the hard way when on February 24, four days before my 30th birthday and a week before I landed my dream job, I lost one of the greatest men I ever knew. Gut-wrenching, earth shattering pain that leaves you breathless and on the floor. The numbness you feel after might be worse. The pain dulls eventually, but it never goes away. That, my friends, is the beauty and the pain of love.

A legacy is etched into the minds of others and the stories they share about you. — Shannon Adler

If there’s an upside to grief, other than the reminder that love exists, it’s gathering as a family to reminisce and celebrate the lives of those we lost. So on August 23, we brought him home to Cape Breton to be laid to rest and honour him in the most beautiful celebration of life. He would have loved, mostly because he loved being the centre of attention.

He taught us so many things, including to be young at heart.

Since my 20s have come to an end, it’s time to let this blog go. (Don’t worry, writing is what I do. I’ll start another blog when I’m ready) I want to use this last Twenty Something Truth to honour a man who loved so fiercely, felt so intensely and taught us so much by sharing five lessons he left us with.

1. Birthdays aren’t about getting older as much as they are about celebrating.

When I say the man loved attention, the man loved attention. Any time we put a picture of him on Facebook or Instagram, he would ask how many likes he was getting. Birthdays? Like clockwork, three months before his birthday, he would start a countdown. Without fail, no matter how old he was turning, he would celebrate it with the same vigour and zest for life he tried to instill in us. Arguably, I was his most successful convert, minus the months leading up to my 30th, when I dreaded hitting a new decade. But, after passing mere days before my big 3-0, he reminded me of a pretty big lesson – getting older is a blessing, age is a but a number, life is worth celebrating.

2. Tears are our greatest strength, laughter is the best medicine and life is best experienced with all emotions

Laughter is the best medicine. Papa felt EVERYTHING with all he had. If there was a sad commercial, a sappy show on tv, almost anything, you were guaranteed to turn and see tears in his eyes. If he heard a funny joke, you could hear his belly laugh from a mile away. No matter the emotion, he felt it and embraced it. He lived life to the fullest.  He knew, to truly experience light, you need to live with the dark. The lesson he taught us – we are who we are because of our emotions,  not in spite of them.

3. Treat yo self

He loved being pampered. His vices of choice – ice cream, Bath and Body Works bubble baths and lobster. The first made him a bit chubby, the second made him a bit wrinkly and the third made him smell fishy, but they all made him happy.  Is taking care of others important? Yes. But so is taking care of yourself. You see, life is hard, challenges arise, people leave and life moves at a pace faster than the speed of life if you blink. So eat that peanut buster parfait, it’s worth the few pounds. Bathe in as many Bath and Body Works products by the light with three three-wick candles of differing scents. Eat lobster if you like. Unless it’s illegal or harmful to others, whatever your thing is, do it.

4. If you aren’t a good singer, sing louder. If you aren’t a good dancer, dance bigger.

That man was the life of the party. Ever see a man in their 70s dab? Dance to Drake? Delightfully tone-deaf, surprisingly light on his feet, every day was a celebration. He kept a pair of dancing shoes in his closet that he refused to get rid of, even though he never used them. If you went to church with him, you would swear he was singing so loud that God could hear him. Talented or not, joy burst out of him.

5. With every fibre of your being, choose love.

Everything he did, he did with an enormous amount of heart and soul, even in times when he drove us crazy. He was the greatest love we might have ever known and there will never be a day that goes by that he is not truly missed. “Love you” were his favourite words. He wasn’t afraid to love, to give everything of himself to others, or live to the fullest. We should all be like Ted.

So yeah, grief is a b!tch and losing a loved one is hard.

I’ll never be able to ask him why he called me Calamity. If I ever walk down the aisle, he won’t walk with me as I always imagined he would. He’ll never get to see his great-grand children, or hug me tightly before I leave for my first Olympics, even though I know he would be proud. But the love he gave me? The opportunity to have spent his last two months by his side, playing poker, watching Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy at his bedside, and soaking him all in? Wouldn’t trade it for the world.  For those of us who knew him, we were damn lucky to have him. For those who didn’t get the chance to meet him, I’m sorry you’ll never be able to say that you had the pleasure.

Thank you for letting me share him with you. Stay tuned to The Twenty Something Truth instagram for updates on the rebrand.

Truthfully yours (and forever a Papa’s girl),

Sam

 

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