My grandparents, both those still with me and those who have passed away, have had and continue to have an incredible impact on me. And the older I get, the more gratitude I feel towards them. They have always shown me unconditional love and a whole lot of support throughout my life that I am sincerely thankful for.
There are many things we can learn from the people around us and I feel like my grandparents have taught me numerous lessons to help me be the best person I can be. Here are some of the things they taught me.
1. Always put others before yourself.
Both sets of my grandparents never once put themselves before others. They have always looked out for those around them, whether it’s a relative, friend, or neighbor. They help anyone who needs it in big and small ways. This has been a big influence for me in terms of the way I live my life — I always put others before myself and actually find it difficult to put myself first.
2. Food can be an expression of love.
In our family, as in many others, food is not simply a way to get nutrients into our bodies. It’s an expression of love. Both my Nana and Grandma would prepare special meals when we used to go round for dinner and my Nana still makes a cake for every single birthday in the immediate family. (They’re always delicious). But it wasn’t just about what they made – they always had our favourites ready and knew what to do to just be there.
Gatherings involving food are a huge part of our family. It’s always lovely to get together with everyone and catch up, especially if we’ve got exciting news to share. Some of my favorite memories are from family gatherings where we’re all sharing delicious food together.
3. A good laugh cures most things (and so does a cup of tea).
My late Grandad was known for his jokes and being able to make us laugh. He had an uncanny ability to send everyone into fits of laughter. This was one of the things I admired about him the most. But even more so because by no means was his life easy, but he still always managed to keep his humor. He taught me to try and find the funny side to everything.
Life can be so hard sometimes. Stressing about money, struggling to fit everything in, and wondering how you’ll even survive – it’s easy to get lost in it all. But it’s those moments when you’re laughing so hard your stomach starts to hurt, that the weight of the world seems to lift and make you feel lighter.
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4. Never forget to remind others how much you love them.
My Nana reminds me how much she loves me every time I see her or speak to her on the phone. She even shows how much she loves me by giving me a squeeze every time we see each other. I do exactly the same to my family and I’ll do the same to my children and grandchildren if I’m lucky enough to have any. Don’t hang up the phone until you’ve told the other person how much you love them.
5. Choose joy every day.
Both sets of my grandparents are honestly some of the most joyful people I’ve ever met. That doesn’t mean they’re never sad or don’t get upset. They’re only human. But they all chose to live a life filled with joy. And it took me a while to understand something really basic about this – it’s a choice. They could decide to focus on the negative or just consider things ordinary. But instead, they’ll find the joy in the simplest of things.
My Nana especially is happiest in her garden or sitting at her kitchen table with me enjoying a cup of tea and some biscuits. From my grandparents, I’ve learnt (and continue to learn/practice) to appreciate the simple pleasures of life for the gifts they are. I truly believe this is a key to happiness.
6. Little things can be very big.
My late Grandad would go and do the food shop on the bus every single week for my Grandma. It’s such a simple gesture, but one that’s so sweet and touching – and left an impact on me after a number of years. She was so important to him, and he to her, throughout their nearly 50 years of marriage, and growing up, I could see that love and commitment shining through in quiet and subtle ways. It’s through the little, everyday things we do that we show someone else how important they are to us.
7. When the going gets tough…
All of my grandparents have responded to the health challenges one another faced in ways that I cannot help but admire.
When my Grandad died and some years later my Grandma was taken into respite, she still kept her love and sense of humor. And my Nana has recovered from breast cancer and even though she is a lot slower, she still continues to do a lot by herself.
At the same time, both of my Grandad’s have suffered health challenges and I will never forget the final words I said to my late Grandad: “I wish I was as strong as you.” This has taught me that we all will go through health problems, each of us. But it’s how you deal with it and remembering to stick together that matters the most.
8. A simple conversation could mean so much more.
During my Grandma’s funeral, the member of our family that shared our memories of her shared how so many people knew and loved Doreen. She was a part of so many people’s lives. After hearing that, it made me realise how simple conversations could have that much power.
As I thought more about it, I decided that it wasn’t necessarily the conversations themselves, but rather, caring enough to have them in the first place. We get so wrapped up in what we’re doing and where we’re going that if it doesn’t affect us directly, we often forget to care at all.
I’ve realised how much of a power it is to influence someone so drastically that it completely changes a person’s life. And that can be as simple as holding a conversation.
9. Live to make memories.
It doesn’t matter whether it’s good or bad – when you live a long life, you’ll have memories.
None of my grandparents have had an easy life. My Grandma was married twice before she met my Grandad and my other Nana and Grandad uprooted their life from Ireland to live in England. In a lifespan of 80 to 90 years, you see and do so much.
Their life experiences have taught me to try and do as much as possible. When you sum up a life of that long, the number of life-changing events that unfold is amazing. Living to make memories allows you to live a fulfilling life, take adventures and trust your instincts.
And even when some memories don’t seem all that great when you’re making them, you can still share that memory and either laugh about it or learn from it.
10. Remember to have fun.
My Grandma on my mum’s side always made sure to keep the conversation light and upbeat. She saw the fun in everything. She loved making us laugh. I so enjoyed hearing all her stories from the war about what a good time she had when she was younger. All four of my grandparents threw themselves into everything and made sure they were a key part of my life.
So thank you for everything you’ve taught me and continue to teach me each day. And to you, reader, I say pick up that phone, ring a grandparent and tell them how much you love them.