This was written as my response to a question on Quora on March 17th, 2018. What is one thing you should have told someone before it was too late? It has been read over 482,000 times.
Last week I woke up to a text message from my roommate Nick at 11:51pm. He was just wondering if I was awake. As I looked at the message I had a weird feeling, I can’t really explain it, but it was one of those times where you felt something was off. Nonetheless I went back to sleep as I had an appointment early in the morning.
When I got home the next day at around 7:30am I noticed I had a missed call from my Dad and a text message from him as well that read “call me when you can.”
I tend to believe we can be in touch with ourselves and our souls if we pay attention. Well, when I read that message I got cold, I could feel the pigment in my face change to a paler shade and it almost felt like my heart stopped.
I could feel my eyes begin to water and I immediately thought of her, my Grandmother, I knew something was wrong. My gut and intuition were telling me so.
She had not been doing well for quite some time now and knowing that delayed the call back to my Dad. I was afraid of what might be said at the other end of the line.
I mustered up the courage and called him back. Now, my Dad is not one to beat around the bush. He tells you straight up what the deal is and this was no exception.
“I have something to tell you. Your Grandmother passed away last night at 2:51 am.”
My heart sunk and my eyes filled with tears quickly. It became a little difficult to speak and I could sense my Dad felt how difficult it was for me so he went on.
“Your mother was by her side,” he went on. She went peacefully, in no pain, and on her own terms – no hospital, no drugs, just the love of your mother and the touch of her hand.
I was a little relieved, still crying like a newborn but a smile crept up on my face. Grandma was with the one person in this entire world that represented our entire family.
In a way she left this world with all of us by her side, feeling all our love. Holding all of our hands.
For once in my life I’m at a loss for words (it doesn’t happen much). I was even reluctant to write this post as I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to do her justice but that’s fear talking and shame on me for succumbing to that.
I wish I could have shared these lessons I learnt from her before she passed or at least my Mom and Pop but it’s never really too late, so here goes.
6 Lessons I learned from the most beautiful woman in the world
1. We think three ways: With our head, with our heart, and with our gut
The head represents the logical side of us: Rationality, logic, and often looks back at previous experiences to make decisions.
The heart represents the emotional side: Emotion, passion, love, and desire guides the heart in decision making.
The gut is our intuition or where our values lie. You often can’t explain it, you just “feel it”. Well, you feel it for a reason, it’s because that is who you really are.
The head and heart can often confuse you. They can keep you in poor health, the wrong career, or the wrong relationships. But, your gut is never wrong and if you think it’s been wrong before… well, you’re wrong.
You were thinking with your head or your heart. Trust your gut, that’s where your true essence lies.
It can be tough to decipher which one we should be using at any given time but my Grandmother was a gut thinker, she knew what her values were, she understood intuition and she made decisions based on that.
Don’t get me wrong, she was extremely intelligent and more loving than anyone should be but she knew who she was and wasn’t about to be anything other than that.
2. Have an opinion and don’t be afraid to share it
Life is way too short to worry about what others think. You have no control over the actions, thoughts, emotions, or opinions of others so there’s no sense in worrying about it.
- If you love something then love it!
- If you want to do something then do it!
- If you have an opinion on something then share it!
Never be afraid to be the person who you really are, to speak your mind, or share your thoughts. There are over 7 billion people in this world, go ahead and offend some of them, ruffle some feathers, and shake things up.
There are plenty more people and some might really need to hear what you’re saying.
3. The most important gifts you can ever give yourself are knowledge and skills
I’m pretty convinced that I was the only 7-year-old that could bake a cake and prepare lasagna.
I spent a lot of time at my Grandmother’s house growing up and she figured that if I was going to be hanging around so much I might as well make myself useful.
She was a great cook, an awesome baker, and an even better con-artist as she somehow duped a 7-year-old into helping her prepare meals instead of playing video games.
This is something that has stuck with me as I’ve grown up. I consider it the primary reason that maintaining a healthy lifestyle has been so easy for me. I don’t mind cooking or preparing food and I know how to do it efficiently.
These habits were instilled in me at such a young age and have just stuck. It’s like tying my shoe, I never have to think about it and I actually enjoy it because it reminds me of Grandma.
Aside from these advice she always taught me to never stop exploring.
“Be a renaissance man,” she once told me.
I was like 9 or 10 at the time so I had no idea what the hell she was talking about but I do now.
To keep trying new things, read, jump out of trees into piles of leaves, listen to all sorts of music (thanks Grandma for introducing me to ol’Blue eyes). But more importantly she taught me to share my enthusiasm and love for acquiring knowledge.
Imagine if Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, or Justin Timberlake (man crush) never shared their music with us.
What if Picasso, Rembrandt, or Da Vinci never showed us their art, Emerson, Coelho, or F. Scott Fitzgerald never shared their literature.
Don’t keep your passions hidden. Share them with the world, you owe it to the rest of us.
4. You’re not entitled to anything so don’t act like it
I honestly can never remember a time where my Grandmother expected something to be handed to her.
She was one of the most independent people I have come across in my entire life and I’m guessing she’s the reason I value the trait so much.
She lived by herself in a two-story house in Vienna, VA and I can remember begging her to come live with me and the rest of the Fam.
“Why would I want to do that,” she used to tell me. “I have everything I need right here, plus I get to give you kids back at the end of the day.”
I think I may have got my sarcasm from her as well.
Aside from that she made me work for everything. If I wanted something or said I needed something she’d make me work for it, I had to earn it. Hell, I bet I could have told this lady I needed a new kidney and she’d make me rake the leaves in the lawn or something.
5. As you age, you care lesser about tangible things and the more you care about the relationships you have
Bronnie Ware, a palliative nurse in Australia, who counsels the dying in their final days recorded the top five regrets of the dying.
- I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
- I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
- I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
- I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
- I wish that I had let myself be happier.
You’ll notice that there is no mention of bungee jumping, nice cars, big homes, the newest technology, more sex, or a slice of cheesecake.
And although these answers may seem a little different on the surface, they all have one thing in common. They all were rooted in the desire to have spent more time with the people they considered the most important in their lives.
About a year ago, I had a conversation with my Grandmother and it was the first time I had sensed that she knew that this life as she knew it had almost run its course.
I can still remember her telling me that my life is a choice and that I have a definitive say in who I spend it with, what I do with it, and above all else, I am the one who gets to decide what is important to me and what is not.
She made a request that day, asking me to never get attached to any material item. They’re not important – but if I was going to get attached to something, then make it the people who mean the most to me. Spend time talking on the phone, writing letters, having coffee, or just sitting quietly and embracing the silence together.
She then asked me when I was going to get married and give her some grandkids…. no pressure.
6. You’re never really gone when you go, you will always live on through the impressions you have left on others
Everything you do matter. She told me that once when I was growing up and that is something that has really stuck with me as I have matured.
That person you let merge into your lane might not have waved but they could have very well let someone else over at another point during the day.
That coffee you bought the person behind you at Starbucks might have turned into a husband stopping to pick his wife up some flowers for no apparent reason.
“We’re all on the same team,” she told me. We might not always get along, but in the end, we’re all on the same team.
So to answer your question, “What is the one thing you should have told someone before it’s too late?”
My answer would be, ‘Thanks Grandma and I love you.’
Not for the things you bought me or the places you took me, but for the soul and love that you left me. It’s true, you are never really gone when you go.
There’s a little bit of Betty in me from when I wake up every day to when I lay my head down to rest for the night. From my severe desire for independence and freedom, to my opinionated voice, and to my relentless passion and enthusiasm to milk everything I can out of this life and to help others do the same.
With gratitude and love,