As we grow up, it’s fascinating to watch as our circle of people grows larger with every new direction our lives take. We start off with our family, then a few friends, and from there we make that 360 degree ring larger every step of the way, from preschool to high school and beyond. Along that journey, our connections grow stronger in some places and somehow these people manage to rub off on us, just enough to shape us into the people we become, allowing us to create the kind of life we want to lead. One person in my life who managed to impact me and those I love in ways unexplainable was my grandfather— a man who made it through 97 years of putting others in front of himself, working hard, and never ever giving up on anyone or anything. He was one-of-a-kind and for that reason, I am blessed to understand one very important life lesson: Maybe it’s not quite about having people in our lives that we are afraid to lose, but those that are worth giving us something to lose in the first place.
There is something about the people we meet, each and every one holding something that maybe we are drawn to or have a desire to hold onto. Have you ever felt that pull towards someone? That intense feeling of understanding, or wonder, or a need to know who they are and what knowledge they may hold within them… That was my grandfather. He held such a wealth of wisdom and experience that I could only ever wish to find within my life. At 97 years old, he had the imagination and the spirit of a teenager, always wanting to do more and be as many things as he could, both for himself and those he cared for. He personified the kind of person who truly made themselves a life worth living. Not only was my grandfather extraordinarily driven, he was also very loved and wonderfully attached to so many other lives. I think that’s what made his life, as well as the end of it, so beautiful— it brought people together no matter how much hurt or loss came with it in the end.
In the first week of my senior year, almost my entire side of the Williams family was in town to spend time together with the same 97-year-old man who had impacted us all. Our grandmother, almost a dozen children, their children, and even their children… We were all here, all four generations of us. Because the thing about those kind of transcendent people who manage to touch so many more lives than their own is that they change who we are. Something about that to me is what makes life itself so elegant; even the hard things, the painful parts, come with some sort of beauty. The reason our hearts ache at the loss of someone we love is because they were someone worth loving. And even though they may be gone, we must step back and also appreciate everything they gave us, taught us, showed us, and left with us to then keep living this life on our own. It is not all about how they left or when they did so, but also what they left behind for us. That kind of wisdom and love can go a long way, we just need to be able to hold onto it and hold onto each other in the meantime.
Sometimes I look at the past year of my life and think about all the moments my grandfather would have truly loved to see: My graduation, my college acceptances, even my first book being published. He put so much work, and love, and care into his children that I cannot fathom how gratifying it must have been to see them and their children, to see us, become something bigger. And for that reason, I am reminded that these lives we live are not truly just for ourselves. In the end, yes, it does all come back to us and the things we strive for. But it also involves the people who love us and those who simply want
to see us succeed. We live these lives to become everything we know we can be, as well as to help those we love become everything we know they can be. We are our own people as much as we are supporters for those who support us. From our parents and our friends, to our teachers and our mentors, that circle of people around our lives grows as we do. Truly, we owe it to ourselves as much as we owe it to everyone who got us to where we are, to become a part of that beauty. We owe it to ourselves to become someone worth losing. To my grandfather, I can never thank him enough for being that kind of someone.