Too often we wait till someone is gone to celebrate how special they were.
A few weeks ago, my grandma passed away at the age of 94. She lived a full life. She was in hospice for a few weeks and we knew what was coming. Everyone in the family kept telling me, “Grandma always talked about you because you two were close.”
As a boy I remember our family vacations consisted of driving from Indiana back to our home town and state, Stillwater Minnesota. Our destination was always staying at Grandma’s. It seem to be the central meeting place where all of the family would gather. Growing up, that was always a special time for me. We would get to see our cousins, have sleepover and get yelled at to be quiet and go to bed. We would go swimming and play outside from morning till night. In the winter, we would build the coolest forts. I celebrate those moments in my life and everyone who was there.
Grandma always stood out in my mind as a character. She once looked at me in her early 90’s and said, “Samuel, I think I might be going through a midlife crisis.” I thought that was such a funny thing to say. But, when grandma moved to Florida to retire, it was like closing a chapter on such a special time in my childhood. I stayed close to grandma because I didn’t want to lose those feelings. And I thought, if I make it to age, how would I want my kids and grand kids to treat me? That put it into perspective for me. I always made an effort to call grandma often and even did a few surprise visits.
One time, after a speaking engagement in Orlando, I drove to Sarasota to surprise her and spent a few days hanging out with Granny. She did not get around super well, so it was my pleasure to take her out to shop, eat at some of her favorite places and finally walking along the beach. She could not walk alone, she had to hold my arm the entire time, but I think it was the last time she felt the ocean and sand on the bottoms of her feet. Creating that memory was my way of celebrating grandma.
She did not have a lot of money, so I would stick some cash in random places that she would find and wonder how it got there. And she was a fan who helped me get speaking engagements by sending out postcards to meeting planners. Her condominium complex always had a happy hour and social a few times a week and grandma loved those times. I think after one of her happy….really happy hours, she went home to work on sending out postcards on my behalf. She must have been so happy that she didn’t realize that she got the mailing labels confused and ended up mailing me 500 of my own postcards. Every day I would come home to bundles and bundles of postcards. There were so many they did not even fit in my mailbox and would be waiting for me on my front porch…and every night for about a week I had the best laugh. By the end of the week I really wanted to hire myself!
Grandma has passed on. Her time on earth is done, but not her memory. I knew it was her time to go, but I did not feel as sad as I thought I would and the reason why is because I celebrated her while she was here. I didn’t wait until a funeral.
Celebrating people now is about
seizing the opportunities
you have with your family.
Celebrating people now is about seizing the opportunities you have with your family. I travel a lot, but when I am home, I want to make the most of that together time. There are so many ways you can celebrate others. Maybe you’re a husband with a lot of work on his plate, but you take a break to connect with your wife for 20 minutes by giving her your full attention or letting her know how special she is to you. Maybe it’s reading a book that you have read a million times to your kids because they love the way you read it and bring it to life. Or maybe, it’s acknowledging someone you work with a kind gesture or gift. I started giving away painted hearts on canvas to people with the message, “This is a gift to let you know I appreciate who you are and what you do. Thank you for giving a piece of your heart to make a difference.”
We should celebrate people now with immediate recognition and acknowledgement. You just have to have some active radar to look for those opportunities. It’s having awareness. A short time ago, I saw a high school boy open a car door for his girlfriend to get in first. Where I come from, we call that being a gentleman. I had to acknowledge that because that is great behavior and the right way to treat a lady. And it’s a way for him to celebrate the person he is with by demonstrating a simple act of respect and kindness.
I guess I would end this blog by encouraging you to find ways to celebrate the people in your life and to look for opportunities to celebrate people by acknowledging their greatness. Until next time, stay awesome!