Living Life Passionately

What is it about finding out that an old classmate in high school died that makes you feel your mortality? Today I popped on to my Facebook only to be greeted by a message on our High School’s memorial page that a former classmate, one I didn’t even know that well, passed away. Not even 40…and the second one to die suddenly within the last year or so (the last one died of a brain aneurysm and I was pretty good friends with his twin brother).

Being a modern girl, I googled him…wondering what happened. My former classmate, Chris, died due to head injuries he’d sustained in a fall while hiking in a state park in Arizona with his dog. I wondered…was he alone when he fell? How long did it take for someone to find him?

This also choked at me, though, because around 20 years ago, another friend…Allison…went hiking with her boyfriend and some other friends…also in a state park…this time in Tennessee. They were jumping over a ravine. Alli, always the athletic type, went to make the jump. She slipped and fell backwards and she fell. She was 19 or 20 years old…nothing anyone could’ve done.

Normally, things like this would weigh heavily on my heart…(I’m often a deep river playing at being a rippling brook) But this time is a bit different. Is it tragic that these folks died way too young? Absolutely. But you know…they died doing something they enjoyed…something they were passionate about! They didn’t sit around waiting for life to happen. They reached out and grabbed it by the horns!

I still remember back in the early 90’s, getting a call from my cousin in Michigan on a Saturday at around 8am. Calls from family that early never bode well, so I answered quickly. It was my oldest cousin, Anita.

Anita: Hey cuz.
Me: Hey…
Anita: So I’ve got some news about Grandma.
Me: Oh, gosh (Grandpa and my Great grandmother had just passed away back to back in the last year).
Anita: Take a breath…she’s ok.
Me: Well, geez! You could’ve started like that instead of almost giving me a heart attack.
Anita: Well, I thought you should know…she’s in the hospital.
Me: Why?
Anita: She broke her hip.
Me: (having grown up around hospitals you kind of know that broken hips on the seniors isn’t good) Oh my gosh! What happened?
Anita: Apparently she was country line dancing and slipped!
Me: (laughing) Oh, gosh! That’s awesome. Leave it to Grandma. Most people her age do that getting out of bed.
Anita: Yeah, she’s kind of bad ass!

Our grandmother finally passed away in her late 80’s, surrounded by family. But you know what stuck with me? She DID things! She didn’t wait for life to pass her by. She enjoyed life. She cherished her friends and family. She wasn’t afraid to keep learning new things regardless of how old she was! (She was in her 70’s when that hip was broken)

Life is too short. It doesn’t matter how young or old you are… Dreams are there to be chased…how else will you ever be able to catch them? If you want to learn to do something…don’t let something like age or fear or embarrassment stop you. Go for it with all you’ve got! Make the life you have one worth living. Too many people die with “woulda, coulda, shoulda’s” and blame everyone but themselves. The truth may be hard to swallow, but the only stumbling blocks we have are the ones we put out there.

What things have you been holding yourself back from doing? What dreams do you have for yourself? How can we help you attain them?

I’m feeling a bit feisty now…so I’ve turned to Billy Idol for help…He knows how to let out that Rebel Yell!

The Top


She said, “It may not look like much to you
This lace and bead and string.
To me, it is a treasure
Worth more than anything.

This little decoration
I guard and rarely show
Sat atop my wedding cake
‘Bout sixty years ago.

Your grandpa looked so handsome
In the uniform he wore
Ready to join his life to mine
Before he headed off to war.

I cherished that little trinket,
Kept it close to me
While I said goodbye
And grandpa went to sea.

Don’t put your faith in money, dear,
Or superficial things.
Remember that what mattered most
Was when we exchanged our rings.”

The above is the original topper from my grandparents’ wedding cake.

My Grandpa served in WW2. On my Grandparents’ 60th anniversary several years back, my Grandma told me the story of that cake topper. You see, they got married during war time, so cake toppers had become scarce. In fact there were maybe 5 toppers left on the shelf, and the rest were paper. My Grams managed to snag this one. Once my grandpa went off to war, she protected that topper, unsure if it would be the only tangible thing she’d have of theirs for a while. Fortunately he came home safely.

She cherished that topper above all else. It was more important than her diamonds or any other expensive material thing that came along. In her eyes, that little, inexpensive bit of tulle and bead and string was priceless. She cherished it the way she cherished my Grandpa. She passed away a couple months after we celebrated their anniversary. Grandpa followed her a couple years later.

I will always miss them, but more importantly, I’ll always remember the lesson she taught me. Remember what’s important. Cherish the people you love. Don’t take them for granted. Love with your whole heart. Anything less than that is not worth it.

Here’s one of the last pictures I took of them together….on their 60th anniversary. I’ve got a feeling they’re reunited once again.


Not Ready To Age Gracefully

I have always thought that growing old is probably one of the toughest things a person has to go through in life.  I was lucky enough to know my great-grandmother on my father’s side.  We called her Granny.  She was from Cornwall, England and moved to the states when grandma turned sixteen.  She was a trip and a half.  She was born in 1900 and lived to be 93.

She was pretty sharp until she hit her late seventies and early eighties.  Then dementia started to set in.  She lived with my grandparents.  My siblings and I would come up to Michigan to visit them every summer and stay for a couple of weeks.  When it was time to go home, she’d always shove money in our pockets before we headed to the airport.  She made amazing pasties.  We were lucky enough that she was able to see her first great-great born.  Yes, she made the paper for having five generations in our family tree alive at one time.

And as great as all that is, I still think of some of the misfires she had as her memory started to erode away.  I think I was about twelve years old and my oldest cousin was getting married.  My grandfather, who had a bad heart, had a fainting spell that morning that perpetuated a visit from the ambulance and fire departments at about 8am.  We woke up to them tramping through the house.  Pretty scary for kids.  My Grandma told me they’d be taking my grandfather to the ER to get checked, but Granny would be there.  So, off they went with the fire truck.

The boy across the street had become my summer boyfriend.  Seeing all the emergency vehicles got the neighborhood curious, especially him.  So he knocked on the door to my grandparents’ door to their front patio.  My sister and I came out to tell him about the excitement.  He was sitting in the glider chair facing his house, and I was standing across from him talking when I suddenly saw my very naked, very wrinkly Granny standing in the middle of the living room.  I was mortified, of course.  What twelve year old wouldn’t be?  So I excused myself quickly, walked to the living room and shut the door behind me.  She let me know she was going to take a shower to get ready for the wedding.  I encouraged her to go right away.  (At the time, I wished I had a toothbrush to brush my mind clean of the memory of what she looked like)  Now I wonder if that wasn’t just the first signs of her dementia setting in.

A couple years later another cousin was getting married.  She asked us every day if today was the day for his wedding.  She couldn’t remember.  My poor, patient Grandma told her mother every time that she’d let her know when it was time to get ready.  That Sunday, we all went to church.  We picked up one of my Granny’s widowed friends on our way.  She was no longer able to drive.  I remember giggling inside when she came to the car and we realized she’d put her dress on inside out.  I was young and a bit cocky…  I hoped that I’d never get that old.

Then the time came…  My Granny outlived my Grandpa, and it all became too much for Grandma.  She finally had to admit her into a retirement community.  By then Granny was nearly completely bedridden and dementia had fully set in.  It devastated my Grandma.  Granny often didn’t recognize her and thought my aunt was Grandma, and my cousin was my Aunt.  She’d reverted almost fully into the past.  But the thing about my fiery Granny was that she always spoke her mind…even in this condition.

You see, Granny had a roommate.  She was pretty deep into Senile Dementia.  She spent most of her days calling for her “Mama!”  One day, while my Grandma, aunt and cousin were visiting her, the roommate started wailing for her mother again.  So, Granny decided to tell her what she thought as only she could.  (Imagine this being said with a British accent)

“I don’t know how to tell you this, dear, but I’m quite sure your mother has been dead for quite some time now!”

Of course this only made the woman wail that much louder and with hysterics.  My cousin said they all looked at each other with big eyes not sure if it was appropriate to laugh…and trying to stifle it.  All this story did for me was reinforce how hard it must be to get older.

Why am I sharing these little tidbits with you today?  Because I’m afraid the process has already started with me.  This evening, I walked into my local mall, dying for some Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte (Yes, I’m an addict).  As I stood in line waiting for the barista to complete my drink I looked down and realized my shirt looked funny.  The lettering appeared off.  So I looked more closely at myself…and my sleeves.  Sure enough, I’d put my shirt on inside out and walked right into the mall.  (Considering I have more than a hint of OCD about certain things, I’m sure you can imagine my reaction….)

As I’m writing this, I’m still beet red!  Well, it’s a good thing I also believe that it’s important to have the ability to laugh at yourself.  I’m hoping that I was also able to share a little bit of that laughter with you…  (Yes, it’s okay if you’re laughing at me.)