We need to talk

My grandma likes to talk.

In our society, we often gather together for birthdays, funerals, weddings, graduations, and so on. It feels nice to celebrate the good times together and to offer comfort during the hard times. But my grandma lives by that philosophy every day, not just the milestone moments. She’s not from a generation or family that normalizes the naming and expression of feelings, but she does makes it part of her daily life to pass on good news and share the load of bad news. Whether it’s in person or in one of her many phone calls, she makes it her mission to connect with people. And in doing that, she indirectly connects us to each other: there are countless people in her circle whose lives I’m familiar with, even if I have rarely met them.

In the community, she also makes a point of staying connected. In earlier years, she spent a lot of time volunteering for the local hockey and figure skating clubs. When I was growing up and my grandpa managed a team of maintenance staff, my grandma made sure they had coffee and snacks every day in the garage. I also have memories of her planning and attending family reunions with extended family members I’ve never heard of. And these days, my grandma is an active volunteer with her small town’s museum.

Earlier this year, my grandma had a milestone birthday. And she had made it increasingly clear that she expected a party. So, we threw her a party. During the planning, she said she didn’t want a formal program for the afternoon, just a chance to visit with friends, family, and neighbours. But we still wanted to welcome everyone and sing happy birthday. I volunteered to do the welcoming — but not the singing (no one needs to hear that).

In addition to thanking a rather large crowd for braving the cold and snowy weather to attend my grandma’s party, I wanted to say something about who my grandma is. I ended up sharing the same comments as written above.

But here’s something I’m ashamed to admit: in thinking about saying those words, it briefly crossed my mind that if I “used up” this content, I might end up repeating myself at her funeral. (We’re not expecting a funeral any time soon, but she long ago told me that she expects me to do a eulogy.) I’m cringing while I write this; I feel awful for holding these thoughts even for a second.

That cringe-y feeling is magnified by the fact of having recently attended two funerals for people who were taken far too soon. Both services were full of beautiful tributes about accomplishments both large and small, as well as – perhaps more importantly – descriptions of how these accomplishments were achieved: through traits like humility, kindness, compassion, and bravery. I’m guessing that anyone who has had to make such a speech would probably love to say these words and repeat themselves to the ones they’ve lost – over and over…and over again.

So, I’m feeling a bit guilty. But since guilt is a rather useless feeling, I’m going to try making a commitment instead. I need to try harder to become positively repetitive to the people around me. I want to get better at telling family, friends, coworkers, and others what they mean to me, what they’ve taught me, why I admire them, and so on.

It doesn’t have to be in speech form. It doesn’t have to be at a big event. It doesn’t have to be gushing. But let’s put it out there. And if you want to make a similar commitment and need any tips on talking, let me know. I’ll have my grandma give you a call.

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