In March of last year, I did a blog post about the importance of photographing the people you love. Photography has many strengths and value in our lives, but I could argue that preserving memories and creating moments is one of its greatest strengths. I've always had a weak memory... not sure why. I can remember brief emotions I felt at a period of time, or how a song takes me to a moment, or a still frame of a detail at a scene. Yet, in general my memory tends to be a be cloudy, like a faded movie cut up into tiny pieces. Photography has served me not only be fueling my passion and communicating my vision, but also preserving my vision and solidifying important memories. Whenever I experience a moment I truly want to remember, I take a 'memory photo' if I know that elements of the moment would be lost in my mind.
This Monday my Grandmother passed away, and now I appreciate the images I took of her more than ever. I've looked at them a dozen times to appreciate the emotion and memories that the images bring up.
What's tough about life and loss, for me, is more about the pain that others feel. I have no doubt that my grandmother is in a better place. In the last few months of her life, her sharp wit and eloquence had deteriorated rapidly and it was clear she didn't want to continue in this lesser state of existence. Yet what pains me is the pain my family, particularly my father feels. My dad was a great son. He did everything he could for his mother. He called her every day. Visited her often. Would buy her anything she needed. He was a great role model of how I should be a better child. So through this ordeal, all I can do is hope I can ease the pain of my family.
I'd like to take a moment to talk about what my Grandmother taught me in my experiences with her, and appreciate those lessons. Grandparents to me have always seen like mythical creatures-- all loving, wise, with the ability to see beyond the now into the 'what can be'. I was lucky in my life to have four wonderful grandparents that loved me and their families deeply. Unfortunately, with the loss of my grandmother, I have no grandparents remaining. Yet they have contributed many important things to my life.
My grandmother was a very strong-willed, eloquent and intelligent woman. I feel that I got much of my drive, love of language and passion from her. Here are a few things I feel she imparted to me.
1. Be a strong woman: My grandma was a strong woman. When she spoke, she spoke with force without being too forceful. Although most of her life she did not have a job, that never meant that she took a lesser place in the family. She did not stand for disrespect. She allowed her intelligence and thoughtfulness to earn her respect. My grandmother always encouraged me to be a strong women in all forms of the word. She encouraged me to be successful in my career and education. She always taught me that I don't have to put up with crap from anyone. I don't need to deal with anyone treating me poorly or pulling me down in life. If I accept something lesser in life, then I deserve it... so I should always aim for bigger and better.
2. There are no excuses: Later on in her life, we had several discussion about achievement, life, and life's obstacles. It was sometimes amusing to see how she didn't accept excuses as excuses. At one point in my life I had let a bad break up situation bring me down, and her response was basically "Onwards and Upwards". There were no situations in life that could be used as excuses-- no one else will truly care about what reasons you have for failure or distress. You must always push past these things. Life is only as good as you make it. She lived this throughout her life, particularly with the last decade of life when she encountered MANY unfortunate situations. Yet she didn't give up... she pushed past the obstacles to live. She taught me really to step back in life, and see that most of my problems were only temporary and that I must see them in this light. There were always bigger things waiting for me around the corner, in her view.
3. The beauty of language: My grandmother loved language. She always prided herself upon selecting JUST the right word to communicate a feeling or concept. She loves the nuances between different words, and how these slight differences can mean a world of difference when communicating. I could only ever hope to be as eloquent as my grandmother. Yet as a child and even as an adult, hearing her careful and proud choice of words was always inspiring. I feel that much of my academic strength and success as a communicator has come from my grandmother.
In short, my grandmother was not just a grandmother who nurtured me as a child. The lessons she taught me (through our conversations and through how she lived her life) are important lessons that have shaped who I am as a woman today. I loved her so much and was able to spend a few days with her this December as her health began to fade. I am lucky to have known her not just as a grandmother, but also as a woman. I will miss her, and I already do, but I am thankful for how she has shaped me.