I'm here today to share with you our secrets, ones that Gran and I discovered along the way. How can we live a life like Gran, one of meaning and joy? How can we leave this life with no stone unturned, feeling loved and content?
Gran's answer is simple, but the application of this simple truth will be shaped by the simple choices you make and the actions you take.
I arrived in Kerikeri thinking that I was only going to stay for three months. It was the summer of 2016, I was young, I was ambitious, and I was busy. The first thing Gran taught me was to slow down. There was no destination that was more important than the journey and three months soon turned into three and a half years.
Over this time Gran's health changed, she showed incredible resilience as she navigated her journey with Alzheimer’s and I also learnt ways to adapt. I found systems for everything. I realised that there are a million ways that we can make our life easier if we are willing to look outside of the box.
I remember a lady at the supermarket being rude. I felt annoyed, how dare her. But by the time I got back to the car all was forgotten by Gran, so I too let it be and let it go.
I learnt about the power of love, that love goes beyond memory and logic. Love is felt, love is transcendent. After each visit and each phone call from her beautiful sister, cousin or friend Gran would glow. For hours she would glow. The love would linger, the love was contagious.
We learnt together to live in the present moment. Early on I discovered that she didn't have an immediate before or after, she had now. Gran couldn't remember where we had been or where we were going but she would embrace where she was. Whether this was in my arms, sipping her half strength cappuccino with chocolate on top or having her back rubbed at the doctors waiting room.
We learnt to make the micro moments of life truly magical. I learnt how to pause in moments of chaos. She looked at me for cues of how to feel and respond. So, when I needed to, I would put the jug on for a cup of tea because beyond an immediate challenge is our immediate needs for safety, security and love. I would also walk away, take a few deep breaths, push a very convenient refresh button and try again. This time in a gentle way, or with humour and fun. In life we have many opportunities to push this button. Maybe I will be a little kinder, maybe I will let down my walls, maybe I will understand what's underneath the presenting issue and address this instead. Love, gentleness, and understanding is often all that you need.
I learnt how to live an authentic life. Our time together was never shaped by societies expectations or norms. She challenged me to let this go and to live my best life. We were unapologetic about the ways we deviated from the norms. We would show up to the doctors waiting room in slippers during an emergency and she would find delicious goodies to eat before we had paid. But I found that people have grace and understanding if you are willing to let go of shame and embrace the "opsee" moments of life.
We loved deeply and freely. We danced, we cuddled, we sang, we walked, we talked, and we listened. We gave Zoey pats, drank cups of tea and held hands. We went out for ice-cream and spent time at the beach. We had adventures big and small. We turned strangers into friends, and we smiled our biggest smiles. We reminded each other of our love and our gratitude for our family. “How lucky am I for my wonderful family” she would say over and over again. We truly lived in the present moment, each moment a treasure as we navigated life together.
So, what are our secrets. Live a life like Gran one of cheekiness, laughter and joy. One of love, contentment and gratitude. Be present along the way, taking mental snapshots if you can, and let love linger. Don't underestimate the power of simplicity and being in the present moment. Slow down at times, breathe and take it all in. Love openly, treasure your family, and be kind to yourself and others.
Live a life like Gran.