July 5, 2012

A Life Without Regrets … well, maybe just a few.

by

The Thinker

I’ve never heard her say “I wish I had ….”. I’m speaking of my Grandmother. As I sit in her house with her for what will be her final 4 days in the home she built with my Grandfather 44 years ago, I’m filled with so many emotions. I get to come back to this house. Likely, she won’t. I get to see again the items that will be left behind because they won’t fit in her new apartment.

And while she’s being impatient and demanding with me, I know it’s out of sadness and frustration. She didn’t think she’d live this long. She’s told me as much. My Grandma said she should have died years ago, but instead she wakes up each day and is grateful for one more opportunity to speak to her brother and me.

I asked her if there’s any place she’d like to go or things she’d like to see since she’ll be closer to me and maybe I could arrange them. She tells me “No.”, but what she means is that there are a few places she’d like to see one more time but she’s aware it won’t happen.

I asked her if there are regrets. She’s silent for a few minutes. “A few”, she said, “but nothing I spend time worrying about”. She doesn’t elaborate. I don’t ask. I wonder what those few things are. Are they big things? Places she wished she’d seen when she had the opportunity? People she didn’t tell how she felt?

I’ve never heard my Grandma speak of what she wished she had done, or seen, or visited, or bought or experienced. At 91 she’s seen and done a lot – been to 20+ countries, met 4 sitting US Presidents, honored for her volunteerism and service, met generals and admirals, stood before the Berlin Wall, watched on TV as that same wall came down, visited Nazi death camps, and stood atop Masada and the Great Wall of China, just to mention a few. She’s always marched to the beat of her own drum, and I suspect she will continue to do that in  this next phase of her life. How long she has, I don’t know. What I do know is that seeing her happy with the life she’s had can’t help but be the example I need to see.

We all have ups and downs in life. Happiness is a choice. Every day. Every moment of the day.

My Grandma grew up in the Depression, and although they were not poor they were not wealthy by any stretch of the imagination. But she never really wanted. It impacted her, definitely. She’s frugal but extraordinarily generous. She doesn’t need a lot of material things. And while there are memories tied to so many things in her home, it’s not the things, per se, that are valuable.

I don’t pretend to believe she was the perfect grandmother. She wasn’t. But none of us are perfect.

She was demanding, and still is. She was very smart, and still is. She was often very sharp in her criticism, but that’s softened. She always loved me, and still does.

But when it comes to life, I don’t think my Grandma ever looks back and wishes it was different. And I don’t think that it’s because she’s 91 and knows she doesn’t have all that long to live. She’s a 3-time cancer survivor, she knows she could have died years ago. She’s here for a reason. Maybe it’s to teach me, once and for all, what she’s fond of telling her nephew – forget about the past, it’s over and done with; stop waiting for the future to come and bring you happiness; live today, in the present because that’s all you really have.

Wisdom from my Bubbe. I am responsible for my own happiness. Look back on the extraordinary life we each have, without regrets.  Create the extraordinary life we each deserve.

Sara

{ 12 comments }

Kelly Loubet (@Childhood) July 5, 2012 at 10:51 am

The lesson of living for today and creating your extraordinary life is a tough lesson to learn… but well worth it. Thank you for sharing this post Sara. I know that I have been dealing with the struggles of a life without regret and being reminded to live for this day that I’m in right now is needed on a daily basis. I’m so blessed to have you has a friend!

Sara July 7, 2012 at 9:39 am

Kelly, a life without regrets is not easy. I think there may always be things we look back upon as we grow older and wonder. However, at some point we must realize that it’s not about wanting to change the past but using today to do our best. I’m glad to call you my friend.

Grady Pruitt July 6, 2012 at 12:56 am

Wow… What a great lesson!

I have to admit I have a few regrets in life. But most of those are about not taking action sooner on some of the things that I knew I needed to do.

We can’t go back and change the past. We can only move forward from where we are right now. So do the things you’ve always wanted to do, regardless of whether anyone else thinks you should or not.

And I hope I can make it to 90 too! 😀

Sara July 7, 2012 at 9:41 am

Grady, I hope you make it to 90 too. It’s nice that my grandma is still so active and independent at 90. I’m fortunate to learn many good lessons from her. She’s very much about living and enjoying the moment. She has always been present for those who are in her presence, and with all the distractions of today it’s not as easy. But it’s definitely necessary. I think it leads to not having regrets about what we do with our time.

My best to you and thank you for stopping by and sharing.

Shifra July 6, 2012 at 3:22 am

Two smart ladies. We all need to hear these lessons. Thanks, Sara.Good luck and safe travels. Big hugs!

Sara July 7, 2012 at 9:43 am

Thank you for your kind words, Shifra. There are so many wonderful lessons we can learn from our elders and I think it’s necessary to share them, because through time and technology many of us have forgotten some of the basics of happiness.

Hugs to you too!

Jackie @ freeismylife July 6, 2012 at 4:47 pm

My father is now 89 and he has outlived all 7 his brothers and sisters and all his cousins. He is in great health, but the fact that he is the last one left just makes my heart race when I think about it. Thank you for sharing your story Sara.

Sara July 7, 2012 at 9:47 am

Jackie, I know how you feel to some degree. Fortunately, my Grandma’s “baby brother” is still alive, he’s in his early 80s. They talk every day and are the best of friends. While I feel badly for my Grandmother as she ages, I have a special place of love and sadness for her brother because once my Grandma’s gone he’ll be the last one.

Enjoy your time with our father. Record his stories to remember his voice. And you too should share his stories. Sometimes they have the craziest tales to tell!

All my best to you,
Sara

An Authentic Life July 7, 2012 at 10:57 am

A lovely reminder Sara.
Thank you for sharing.

Kate @ Songs Kate Sang July 8, 2012 at 7:26 pm

I had saved this post for a time when I was able to really read it and enjoy it. I’m so glad I did. This is beautiful and precious. Thank you for sharing your Bubbe with us.

Diane Brogan July 14, 2012 at 6:15 am

Sara, This is so beautifully written. I hope you print it out and save it for your daughter. I am so happy to know you. Wonderful people like you are sometimes too busy to let their wonderfulness show. Thank you for taking the time to share.

Sara July 16, 2012 at 4:41 pm

Diane, thank you for your kind words. I thought of you and wondered what you’re thinking about as you and Mr. Brogan turn the page on this next chapter of your life. When you’re settled in your new place in Las Vegas, I might just have to come visit for an interview!

~ Sara

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