Smiling with Strength

Life is weird. And so is death. But in the end, it all comes down to breath.

My grandpa passed away this weekend. Driving over to my parents’ house that morning, not knowing if he was still with us or not, all I could do was breathe. In those moments, my mind was racing with thoughts, regrets, denial, and a weird sense of peace. But I realized that all I could do was breathe. And that is a gift my grandpa gave me.

My grandpa was the strongest, most reliable, and smiley man in the world. I could, and still can, always count on him to make me feel like everything is going to be okay and bring a smile to my face.

He was diagnosed with bone marrow cancer two years ago. But no one ever would have known.  He never complained. He was in so much pain, but he always held a smile on his face and would simply say, “there are good days and bad days”.

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He could make anything happen. When the doctors told him he needed a trial pill for his cancer that cost thousands of dollars, he refused to worry us, but he also refused to give up. He did not tell anyone until it was taken care of. He called and called everywhere he could until he received a $10,000 grant to take care of him and his medicine. He did not complain. He did not give up. He worked hard and he made miracles happen. The way that he lived and the way that he died continue to teach me so many lessons. Even in his death, he remained steady, strong, and smiling for all of us.

Some of my happiest memories and biggest smiles in the world happened because of my Grandpa. Throughout my entire life, he has given everything to his family. He found a way to support me traveling to Nicaragua, when I was waitlisted at Uva, he called admissions to tell them more about me and why they should accept me (I’m still convinced his sweet talking got me in), he is a huge part of the reason I was able to become a yoga teacher, and the list could endlessly continue. He helped and supported me in every little thing, in more ways than he could. He is the reason I am who I am today. He took such an integral part in raising me, and because of that, I feel him within every part of me. Every time I sit at the wheel, every time I inhale, or feel the sun, he is there. He lives within my passions, and every time I practice them, I get to spend time with him.

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You can’t change death. It happens. It is irreversible. You can’t change the things you did or did not do. You can’t get another minute back. You have no choice but to accept it. Appreciate every second until that moment. And when the inevitable happens, you breathe through it. My grandpa supported my ability to realize that. As we move on, I know he is not gone. He is that much more a part of all of us.

He was strong and smiling until his very last day, and he would not have wanted it any other way. It is an honor to be his granddaughter. And it is an honor to carry his spirit in every thing for the rest of my days. There will be good days. And there will be bad days. But we will continue to breathe. And he will always bring a smile to my face.

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