Facebook can be the best part of my day but also the worst. Around the holidays, you get to see all of the family photos, delicious food, and amazing traditions that people carry out with their loved ones. All of those things will always be something I treasure seeing. What I struggle with are the memories. Facebook memories can either be an sweet reminder or something you struggle to revisit. November through January has been tough for me. In 2012, losing both of my grandmothers set me up for a lifetime of seeing those damn Facebook memories that I both cherish and want to ignore.
This year is different though. I have been very focused on our Family Draft and shifting the company to giving back in their name which has caused so much reflection on my part of who my Grandmothers really were and what that time in my life taught me. All reflection left me with one simple point that we have all heard before... life is short.
10 years ago, I was 24 years old. My Nana, Darlene, was 71. At the time, I absolutely saw her as "old" but she was the cool adventurous grandmother. She had retired and began traveling to Hawaii & Alaska. She shared her pictures and we made plans to redecorate her house. I spent days with her at a time printing pictures for a new family collage wall we were putting together for her dining room. She was excited to show me the new color she painted the hallway. She wasn't slowing down... not even close. 71 years old. 10 years later, as I sit here at 34... looking at my parents, who are also 10 years older, and I become more angry than I was back then. She was so damn young. How do people get taken away from us when they are so young? We have all experienced that heart break. It just doesn't make sense. Life is so short and it is taken in an instant. As I made the draft jersey theme for "Heart Disease", I thought of my Nana. She had heart disease in her family. Her mother died (at 71) of a heart attack. And now, at 71 years old herself... she too died of heart attack. She didn't know any of the signs of what was happening to her. She thought she was having heart burn and sent her husband out for TUMS. In that instant, she left us. She had so much life left to live. So many memories left to make. But... that's not how life works sometimes.
Then there is my Grandma. Probably the most incredible woman anyone could ever know. My Grandma, Lorraine, was 78. Again, I saw her as "old" but she was the spunky adorable Grandma who was known for keeping Christmas up all year round. Her tree was always lit and she had the most Christmas spirit out of anyone I know. She took care of other people... not the other way around. When Nana died, I remember my grandma sitting in the funeral home with me sharing her memories of Nana. They LOVED each other so it was almost as devastating of a loss for her as it was for me. I remember thinking "Gosh I am so lucky to still have my Grandma. I need to be sure to make the most of every minute I have with her from here on out." That is a vivid memory in my brain. Nana died just before Thanksgiving so by Christmas, Grandma was in the full swing of things.
We had our Family Christmas party the first weekend of December and I made sure to get a picture with her. When I returned home again for Christmas, I went over to her apartment for breakfast and one on one time. We talked about a new decoration she got and then reflected on memories of when she lived with us when I was growing up. Christmas morning, she came over to my parents house like she always did. I listened to her laugh while she watched Christmas Vacation (she had the BEST laugh in the whole world) and we scratched off lottery tickets and she screamed with each win whether it was $1 or $50. Again, I asked her for a picture so I could capture each moment with her.
I flew back home to NC and within a few days, I got the call that she had a stroke and was not going to make it. A week or two later I was right back in the same funeral home that I just sat next to her in a month and a half before. She was different though. Grandma was a pillar in the community. She served her community for so long that everyone knew who Lorraine Vonglis was. The church was full for the service and that morning, the fire department did her final call. It is something that will forever be a core memory. It is one thing for me to love someone deeply but it is an entirely different thing to love them deeply and see how many other people also loved them. It gives an entirely new level of appreciation for having that person in your life. You feel special to have known such an amazing human, let alone be able to call them your Grandmother.
Life is short. There are so many things in this world that can take us away in the blink of an eye. We have to live it. Looking at the causes of the draft, these are so many things people are affected by on a daily basis. Some things we can live with (while challenging, still can live), and others take us away from the ones we love most.
So when you look at your Facebook memories... do you want it to talk about the Netflix show you just watched or do you want it to be about the day you spent on an adventure making memories? A year from now, 2 years, 5 years, 10 years from now... what do you hope you can look back and say about your life?
This holiday season (and every day), let's all try to keep these things in mind...
1. Be kind. You never know who is going through something that you can't see.
2. Look out for others. If you can help even in a small way... it could make a difference in their whole world.
3. Put your phone down. The world is happening all around us and I promise you... it's not in a screen. Put your focus on your family and friends... not on the next app.
4. Take the picture. You will never regret having too many pictures with the ones you love. (but take it and then put your phone back down!)
5. Tell people you love them. No one can ever hear that enough.
6.... and this is the big one... Cherish every moment. When you get frustrated with your husband being annoying or your wife being a nag, or your grandma being a little crazy, or your sibling being rude... remember that there are people out there who would give anything for those moments again with the ones they lost. They would trade places in a heart beat. Maybe it'll make those things not seem so big.
It's like this story I read the other day...
Two friends were golfing. One had recently lost his wife. Around hole 2 the other man got a text from his wife. The text said, “Be sure and get home in time to cook chili tonight.” The man responded by complaining about only getting to golf one round of golf. He went on to complain about having to cook and that he would probably have to stop by the grocery store in order to pick up some ingredients for the chili.
As the two friends continued to golf, the man who had complained about cooking chili noticed that his friend was unusually quiet and appeared frustrated. He thought maybe it was because his friend had hit a couple bad shots, but as they approached hole 16, he asked his friend, “Is everything ok?” His response:
“JUST COOK THE CHILI”
Happy holidays. May your days overflow with moments that become amazing memories that can always make you smile.