I enjoyed the last rays of the summer solstice in the company of my Kentucky-born grandfather. He was in America sitting outside by my grandmother’s grave, while I was in Korea sitting inside at my desk, but through the amazing technology of FaceTime, we were together.
As the rays of light behind him slowly shifted from yellow to golden, we discussed many things: loss, grief, and goodbyes; music’s ability to bring refreshing to the soul; how we need things like biking and music and the beauty of nature to keep us sane.
I imagined for a moment what it must be like to be old, goodbyes accumulating, the past expanding behind you. I felt suddenly aware of all that is behind me already––people I have lost, dreams that have faded, seasons that have passed, innocence that has fallen away. Yet at the same time, the contemplation of old age made the vibrancy of my youth more acute––the future stretching before me, full of promise.
As my grandfather commented on my recent singleness blog series, I felt him propelling me forward into that future. He said he was shocked sometimes by my vulnerability on my blog, but that writers needed to be able to be honest and I definitely had that ability. “I have no idea what it’s like to be single as long as you have been,” he said, “but I think you’re right: You shouldn’t change for someone else, you should keep being yourself.”
As he spoke, warmth filled me.
My life journey has been so different from his, and my path must seem foreign to him in so many ways, yet he powerfully loves me right where I am. And I am who I am because of that love. I am who I am because of the people who have believed in me and supported me even when they didn’t quite understand. I am who I am because of those who have propelled me forward, even when it meant pushing me farther away from them, onto a different path than theirs. As he spoke, gratefulness welled up in me.
“Don’t ever change,” he said. “Just keep being yourself.”
I nodded and told him I would, wondering if he would ever know the power of his words, the way they were carrying me forward, and how I would always treasure them, deep in my heart.