This is the way the world ends, not with a bang but a whimper

Death comes for us all. One could say that, in many ways, it’s chasing us our entire lives; an ethereal reminder that our time is limited and that we need to appreciate and seize every moment, hold nothing back, and leave nothing in reserve. Absolutely nothing.

That’s an interesting consideration: Hold nothing back. How often do we refrain from saying something, either because of our perceived effect on someone else, or because we feel it’s unimportant? How often do we miss an opportunity because we think we can get around to it tomorrow or the next day? How many things does an average person put off and never actually get around to? What have you been putting off?

This morning I learned that my great-grandmother had died. It wasn’t entirely unexpected given her age and general health, but I was surprised at how deeply it affected me. I was shocked that I felt sad for someone I’d barely even known; someone who had spent her life manipulating and hurting so many people around her, someone who beat her children and was rude and boorish for so much of her life. I felt sad.I’m still sad.

The last time I saw her was a few years ago. She was an old woman in a wheelchair, barely able to hold her head up and, without a reminder, didn’t recognize me at first glance. And that’s when I realized that, despite the horrible stories I’d heard about my great-grandma, and despite the terrible things she had done to my grandmother and her siblings, it occurred to me that she’d never done a wrong to me.

She’d treated me with kindness (as much as she could fathom, as “hard” as her exterior was) every time I’d seen her, and even sitting in that wheelchair, having not seen me in years, she smiled and patted my knee as I sat next to her. We didn’t say much. There wasn’t much to say, really. It was a quiet and sullen meeting, only because we both knew it would probably be the last time we saw each other. And I’m okay with that.

The question that comes to me as I write this is simple, “Can a person be forgiven for their past, no matter how awful?” and I find myself hoping that the answer is “Yes”. For however awful we sometimes live our lives, I’d like to think that we can all be redeemed. I’d like to think that we can all move on from whatever we’ve done and become different people.

My great-grandmother may not have been a wonderful human being for most of her life. Perhaps she was the same person right up until the moment she died, but I know one thing: we all have the capacity to grow. Between that and seizing every moment, I’d say we have a lot of work to do in our lives; and I’d like to think I haven’t been thought an awful person for who I have been or who I’ve become.

We all have a right to redemption. So long great-grandma.

Here’s a link to her obituary.


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