My grandmother, Isolina, lived an amazingly fulfilling life, which was enriched by those close to her that loved her, and we by her. She overcame adversity and hardship. Tragically being separated from her siblings after losing both of her parents at a young age, she managed to persevere, finding ways to survive, and eventually married an amazing man: my grandfather, Manuel. Journeying from Spain to Saõ Paulo, Brazil, and later Montreal and Vancouver, one can only imagine how difficult it must have been to start over with a young family. I wish I had an ounce of her courage.
A life of supreme privilege is one that many millennials are born into. I’ll likely never experience the ravages of war on the home front or live through another great depression. We live in an ever increasingly sophisticated, complex, miraculous, and interconnected world. In all of our pockets resides a small rectangular slab of aluminium as powerful as desktop computers were just six years ago. Any kind of information we wish to know is near instantly available at a tap or a swipe. The biggest perceived hardship I’ve ever had to deal with, or as they’re now colourfully referred to: “first world problems,” is when Apple’s iCloud servers go down for a couple of hours and my documents no longer sync. It’s okay to laugh because it’s both true and sad.
Life is ephemeral. You know it, I know it, and the universe knows it. Everything is in a constant state of conception and decay, from microscopic organisms to higher forms of intelligent life; it’s one harmonious and cohesive experience. I don’t hold a belief in any deities or what some may consider an afterlife or higher state of consciousness. But that doesn’t matter. Perhaps you believe in the human soul and that after death you’ll be redeemed in the eyes of a higher power. Whatever it is, there’s one principle that I like to think we can all agree on: There is no better time than now to live in the moment. If this sounds familiar, it’s likely because you’ve heard this before, perhaps by a close friend or from one of those life coaches who we continue to throw money at. Either way, now is a tremendous time to take stock of our life’s priorities.
It’s a fact that there’s a large majority of people on this planet that have done very little traveling, if not haven’t left the borders of their home town. Doesn’t that sound crazy? Look, I’m not here to tell you how to run your life. The entire reason why I’m speaking today is to provide some sense of catharsis for myself as I ruminate on the death of my grandmother. Death is something that I think about on a regular basis, sometimes almost daily. The entire notion to me that all of the knowledge I’ve acquired, all of life’s experiences, simply dematerialize after I’m gone? Frankly, that frightens me. What concerns me even more, is that I’m preoccupied with the idea that I won’t make any kind of significant contribution or impact in the world, or for that matter, in anyone’s life.
My observation of most people—not excluding myself—is that we’re too caught up in the day-to-day mundane. Rarely do we stop and take a moment to tell someone close to us how much they mean to us. It’s something that I truly believe we should all be cognizant of. Over the last five years I’ve purposefully made an effort to be more introspective. I’m well aware of my many flaws and I think that keeps me awake enough to realize that sometimes it feels good to put down my phone and make real, meaningful connections with other human beings: friend, family or otherwise.
I admit I haven’t fully experienced life as I want to. Not all goals have been met, nor countries visited. Often I hear people say how small our world really is—sure that may be true to some degree if you compare this tiny spec of rock in an ever expanding universe with billions of other galaxies left to explore. And yet, through the lens of individual eyes, our world is just big enough that a sizeable portion of us will barely scratch the surface of it.
Hopefully I can impart one thing to you: We’re all somebody’s child. No matter how much time we devote to seeing an ailing parent or sibling, there will always be feelings of guilt. I didn’t quite do enough. If only I had visited them the day before. The truth is, we all die alone—the one thing we share as a species, irrespective of race or age, is this.
I think parents ultimately take solace in that they raised their offspring in the best possible way they could, always hoping they’re sons and daughters will aspire to even greater things. In some small way, parents live on by proxy through their children; their life lessons leaving an indelible mark on us all.