It was my last full day abroad when I woke up to a Facebook message sent by my sister, letting me know that my grandma had passed away that morning.
Dealing with death on the road is never easy, I can only be thankful that it happened so close to me coming home, allowing me to attend the memorial service in a few weeks.
For as long as I can remember, my grandma has lived in Nevada. Taking our yearly trip through the Sierra Nevada’s to get to Grandma Jo’s was my first taste of travel.
It was a trip I looked forward to every year, Nevada seemed so different from California, and the McDonald’s in Carson City had a legit play area for kids my age.
If we were good, we’d even stop at Chuck E. Cheese’s on the way. The perfect way to start a road trip is jumping in a colorful ball pit and running down slides, after all.
Jokes aside, what I really loved about those trips was the journey. The fact that we’d leave before sunrise, finding our way in the dark to the highway. My siblings and I would cover ourselves in beanie babies and blankets in the back seats and blast Backstreet Boys with the windows rolled down.
It was an annual ritual I looked forward to because it meant I would be able to see my Grandma Jo and Grandpa Al for the only time that year. Our short time together growing up is what also made it so special.
Those trips made me realize that the journey is only half the fun, the people waiting for you on the other end; however, that means everything.
My grandma waiting for us with fresh lemonade, a new card game to play, or simply a good conversation out on the porch in the summertime, that is what I remember most about those trips.
When I left home to travel, I had the chance to say goodbye to my grandma who had finally made the move to Santa Cruz, CA a few years after the passing of my Grandpa Al.
My mom was sad and worried about my upcoming travels, but my grandma told her to look at it from a different perspective. How proud my mom should be of me, to have raised such a brave, fearless, and spontaneous young woman.
That conversation with my grandma stuck with me throughout my travels, and when I doubted myself the most these past two years abroad, those encouraging words made me sleep easy.
I had no idea that would be the last time I would see her. Her health severely deteriorated these past two years I’ve been overseas, and I was never able to say another goodbye.
I may be coming home with a slightly heavier heart, but I’m also proud of the woman I called my Grandma Jo.
She lived a full life, she raised a daughter that became my mom, she inspired and influenced others – I don’t know what else you could wish for in life.
I have a lot of fond memories with my grandma that I won’t relay here. This post is simply more a way of me coming to terms with everything, and to honor her in my own way.
More than ever it has made me want to feel alive in everything I do, to be aware and sincere…simply, to love more.
The classic quote by Buddha comes to mind: “the trouble is, you think you have time”.
I want to go jump in the ocean, learn how to surf even though I’m terrible at it, go jump off a cliff and paraglide over the place I went to school in San Diego. I want to try everything once, and not regret a thing.
I want to come home to those people on the other side of it all, and to realize how the journey was worth it. How full of a life I’ve lived in the process of doing what makes me happy.
This one is for you grandma, cheers to a life well spent, and to an impact both profound and graceful.
Rest in Peace and….