My grandmother died today.
A lot of things ran through my mind at the moment she passed. I looked at my great-aunt standing at the other side of the hospital bed and wondered what she was thinking as she looked upon her younger sister. Was she remembering the times they had spent as girls, then as young women, chock full of hopes and dreams? Or was she thinking of their last game of dominoes, trying to accept that they would never again play their favorite game together? Then I asked myself what would my own children would think when I told them great-grandma was gone for good.
You think a lot when someone you love dies.
My grandmother was a fun lady. She loved people, loved a good time and she was constantly saying things that put us all in stitches. I have a roster of ‘grandma-isms’ that never fail to bring a smile to my face. Luckily, my mother does a great Barbadian accent so when she quotes my grandmother she reduces us to tears of laughter, and my step-dad can cook some of her greatest dishes—grandma taught him herself. But more than all that, on a deeper, visceral level, I remember her as strong woman, dedicated and committed to her family and to other people, too. She raised her own children and was a ‘surrogate’ mom to other people over the years. Growing up, I was always amazed to meet people at family gatherings who always spoke about her with the deepest respect and, even, love.
We are influenced by the people around us. I know for a fact that she was one of the greatest forces to influence me. If I believe I have the brains and strength and ability to do anything in this world today, it’s largely from watching that humble lady do the simplest but most important things every day—everything she did spoke of her love for her family. Life was not always easy, but she never quit. She never turned away from the task at hand. She was steady, keeping on at life daily, until the very end.
That’s a real woman.
So how does this relate to writing? Well, it goes back to influence. My grandmother didn’t buy me books, or pay for writing classes or do anything to directly influence my writing. But her values and example did. I also know how proud she was when she learned I had published my first book—I remember the look in her eye and the smile on her face and the resulting pride and joy I felt. As a parent, everything I do serves to help raise my children right: I sacrifice and do anything I can to protect and to support them, just like any good parent. Even things like getting my book to print, taking them with me to the stores where it’s on consignment, and visiting their schools to talk about writing were done with the intention of showing them that every day, regular people can accomplish their dreams if they work hard. Kids need to dream. And they need examples, models, to help them believe they can achieve their goals. Grand-parents have the same goals as parents, and I believe they hope that their legacy will serve to lift up their grand-children. When I told my grandmother about the book, I think she felt that she had contributed to something wonderful—something that had enabled her grand-daughter’s dream to come true just by her being. And she was right.
There are few things in life that help put things in perspective quite like the death of someone close. Sitting beside her bed today and thinking about all this, I felt a sort of stirring inside. Aside from her illness, these last few weeks have been generally challenging. There were moments when it was hard to keep writing or blogging: “Blogging takes up so much time”, “Anyway, nothing worthwhile is happening in my writing life right now so why bother posting at all?” Or the classic, “Ugh, I just don’t feel like writing today. Or any day.”
But life is short. What we don’t do today might never get done; we have to use the time we have to the utmost. The words you don’t put to paper might be forgotten, or that book you are too afraid to submit might never get to that agent or editor and fail to be discovered. The story on your heart you don’t think is very good might go unwritten and so miss touching someone’s life. Or a struggling blogger might find his second wind because you left a few encouraging lines.
Folks, you matter. Your life and your words matter. What you do or don’t do, matters. What legacy do you want to leave behind?
I’ve been away for a while and I’d love to hear from you. 🙂 Drop me a line and say hello!