While it wasn't until my adulthood that I was able to understand and appreciate the lessons she gave me, I've learned that she waited for me to learn those lessons myself. She never TOLD me what to do, or HOW to do anything. She simply acted in a way that she felt was right, and those lessons have spoken more volumes to me. She taught me to truly mean it when I say "I love you." She's shown me how much disrespect and dishonestly can hurt a heart. She's displayed a way to be completely honest, but remain gentle in the moments that the truth may hurt. Most recently, she's taught me about giving and giving up.
I went to visit her this week by myself for the first time in a long time. Most of the time, my Mom and I visit her together, and try to take Riley to visit to bring her some cheer. We visited for a couple of hours, and she began to tell me about how she reorganized her kitchen because one of her caregivers had put her pots and pans away "too messy"and it frustrated her. I offered to do it for her, but she looked at me and proudly told me that she managed to do it independently. I encouraged her to use her strength and energy that she had, but not to go overboard. She smiled and told me about how she cannot wait for it to get warm again (we've had quite a cold spell this week) so that she can walk around in her back yard. We talked about how good that would be for her. She looked at me and ever so seriously and said, "I may be 91, but that doesn't mean its time for me to sit here and give up. I will always try until its time for the good Lord to take me home." With that statement, she changed the subject. She didn't lecture, she didn't insist, but I know she was telling me that there is never a time in our lives that we should give up. We must always persevere and continue to try to move forward. We may not move as quickly as we want, but we always have to try.
When it was time for me to leave, I leaned in to kiss her head, and she told me as honestly as she always did how much she loved me. She told me how much she loved my parents, and how proud she was of them for working hard and raising my sister and I the way they did. She told me she realized that not everyone recognized them for the way they have chosen to live their life, but she saw it and was proud. She told me she may not be my grandparent, but she could never imagine staying away from any of us. I quietly told her that it didn't matter how we were bound together by blood, she has always been a grandmother and I loved her dearly. She then took several minutes to emphasize to me: "If you need anything, if I can do anything, even if I have to run, I want to help you. I want to be there for you anytime, and I want you to know you can call me for anything." I smiled, thanked her, and told her that I wanted to do the same for her. She promised to call, as did I.
I left and realized that she has told me these same statements the past several times I have been by to visit. There was a 91 year old woman laying in a chair, so tired she didn't want to move, and somedays so week that she cannot move, and she is offering every bit of what she could do to me. Instead of finally accepting the help from others, she is still thinking of how SHE can be the one to help. Instead of expecting that everyone owes her now after all she has done for us, she is still trying to give. And she's trying to teach the world that there is never a time that it is acceptable to stop giving back. There is never a time that we can finally just be takers, for we can only leave a true, positive mark on the world by giving until the day we leave it. I certainly hope to continue to witness her loving and giving nature for many years into my adulthood, and hope that maybe she can reach those that we often see as "unreachable."