I flew back from my grandmother’s funeral yesterday. She was the last of my grandparents to leave this world and venture on into the next, and that was a special kind of moment for me. Not only was she part of the “Greatest Generation” in our time, but she was also what I would consider my biggest loss.
My entire life, she was my inspiration – one of the first female Marines who joined in WWII, she was a trailblazer from the start. A teen model, she was a “looker” until well in her 80s – with a shock of red hair and a flair for the dramatic, in dress, jewels and attitude.
I sat on the flight home and reflected on my loss – what an amazing person, how could I ever contribute her style of love and devotion to her seven grandkids…the ones who adored her, couldn’t wait to run out of the car at Dahl House, our beloved family retreat, to join her on the dock to catch a big Chesapeake Bay Jimmy?
Then I remembered that loss is always gain.
For the last several years, Gram was in an assisted living facility. Slowly, she went from being an independent woman with a fiery disposition and a lot of love and thought for others, to being dependent on those others to take care of her. She had quality of life, yes – but she wasn’t the free-spirited, spunky Gram who fed me Tang, Snickers bars and sugar cereal when my mom wasn’t looking.
Her freedom came this past week – now, I like to think of her wading around in the water “upstairs” with my granddad, then dressing to the nines to go out to “the Club” with him for dinner and drinks. They are both youthful, happy and bright. How does that translate to me, or you, and loss?
Well, think of it this way…when was the last time that you lost something – a person, a beloved object, or something that you had centered yourself around for some time. That could also mean a job that you toiled at for years that resulted in a change, or a divorce, or a move. At first, the loss is poignant, stabbing and throughout your whole body. How can you survive without ____?
After some time though, that stabbing pain subsides, and you start to focus in on growth. What was the meaning of that loss? If it was a person (as in my case), what did you learn from them that you can pass on into others (or how did they inspire you to ignite change?) Ghandi had a great saying, “Be the change you want to see in this world.” If it was a person or thing that changed you, when you lose it, become that change in order to grow.
I know with my Gram, she was a spitfire. She was way ahead of her time, and she was part of the “bleeding edge” of women who weren’t afraid to challenge social norms, nor “bust through” the cultural mindsets we fall into so easily. I consider it not only a duty, but an absolute honor, to tell her story to others. She inspired me to work with women in motorsports, something that today is on the barrier of entry to norms. I’m also a pretty fiercely independent female, sans the red hair.
The best thing I learned, that is a huge source of comfort to me now, that loss is definitely gain. Her stories will inspire thousands of others through me – I wouldn’t have it any other way. So what have you lost lately, that you can turn into a positive?
If you haven’t had a significant loss in your life, the takeaway can be as simple as just recognizing it when you do. After all, life is all about knowledge and growth through coping with loss. Just gain a little understanding of yourself!