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  • Writer's pictureTaylor Stern

how to step into your potential

Updated: Nov 17, 2020

**this was originally published in 2016**

I've gone back and forth several times in deciding whether or not to write about my Grammy's passing. After a month of personal reflection, I’ve realized that I’ve learned so many big lessons from this situation that are worth sharing. And so in my grandmother's memory, I'd like to share the lessons she lived, and the lessons that will continue to impact me.

Selective Social Sharing

My Grammy suffered a brain aneurysm on my birthday in February, and after months of battling she passed on to heaven. During that extremely difficult time, I realized I was very reluctant to share anything about my family’s struggle or hardships on social media. Frankly, I didn’t want strangers to know. For most people that seems like an obvious truth, but for myself it was odd because social media largely dictates my life. It’s my job, the first thing I check when I wake up and it is quickly becoming my second language. I also consider myself an open book with no information left out, but this sacred information was mine -- not to be tweeted. Yes, I know it seems like I’m defeating that purpose by writing about it now, but I think it serves a larger point. The point is what we’ve always known: social media pages are highlight reels, not anyone’s full motion picture. I didn’t need the validation of post notifications to know I was hurting -- I felt that already. Just like you don’t need to see 20 comments saying how awesome your life is, you should already know. Share what you heart desires, but always remember that most people are dealing with something that you have no idea about, good or bad.

Unconditional Support

I traveled home the weekend after the aneurysm to see her while she was still in the ICU. That weekend I noticed a multitude of things, but nothing stood out to me more than the support system that had rallied around my grandmother at her lowest point. Here was my Grammy, lying lifeless in a bed, unable to form complete sentences and being fed from a tube. Even in that state she had so many visitors, and her family was around her at all hours of the day. All the way until her last day, she was never alone. Not only was she surrounded by those who loved her, but their selfless acts toward her were truly inspiring – and it made me realize the things that I wish for my life. As I watched my dad lovingly massage his mother-in-law’s feet, it crystalized what anyone should hope for in life: unconditional support. I once read a quote that greatly affected me: “treat everyone as if they died at midnight.” As my Grammy was dying, there was no hate or anger, just love and care. That was beautiful to witness.

If Not Now, When?

It’s not lost on me how blessed I am to have been close with all of my grandparents and to have had each of them well into my life. I don’t mean this to sound morbid, but my Grammy was the last grandparent I expected to go first. After all, she was the youngest and hadn’t shown any signs of losing her spunky personality. Yet at 74 she was gone and the first to go. I remember being a little girl and visiting her home and finding all of these wonderful candles. None of them were lit, and she didn’t have the slightest intention to light them. When I asked her why, she said they were being saved. I never knew what she was saving them for, or if she ever lit them. But after her sudden passing I realized something: light the candles if you want to light the candles. Too often in life we hold ourselves back, we create false excuses and wait for the “right time,” but I think we all know there really never is a “right time.” Throughout this whole experience I discovered that time is fleeting and I need to make the most of it. That can take on a lot of different looks – from something as trivial as wearing the expensive perfume, or pursuing new, potentially scary opportunities in both my personal and professional lives. Not being the one who holds myself back is something I will constantly work on and strive for.

Cherish the Moments

When you work in sports, you know going into it that you’re probably sacrificing more than just weekends and vacations. You’re also missing out on family time. It was the week before the team was scheduled to play in Buffalo on Dec. 27. For the non-locals on our staff, there simply wasn’t enough time to make sense of a hasty trip home for Christmas. However, I had been feeling really down about the thought of being alone on the holiday after a long football season of being away from my family. After sharing this with my bosses and my parents, they encouraged me to just take the day and chance it by flying standby. Thankfully, I listened to them and flew home early on Christmas Eve, returning in the afternoon on Christmas Day. Little did I know that quick trip would be the last time I would see my Grammy prior to her aneurysm, and it would be the last time our entire family would be together. Those 18 hours now mean more to me than I ever thought they would. Seizing the opportunity to be with the ones I loved is something I’ll never regret.

Actions Made Now, Impact Future Generations

You might just be a small puzzle-piece that makes up the gigantic puzzle of life, but you are important. Your life and everything that happens to you is your responsibility. Life happens, yes -- but how you choose to move forward molds you. Not letting life make you a victim but a warrior is your choice. Don’t blame life for the ups and downs, but I encourage you to think ahead and carry on. My Grammy dealt with her fair share of problems in life, and the effects of her decisions trickled down to everyone around her. Make those effects positive ones and choose to be a model of how to handle life, even if no one is watching now.

Death Is Weird

Dying is weird and how people handle others dying is even weirder. Everyone deals with things differently and there really aren’t explanations for it. I watched my Grammy decline steadily over the four months and found myself feeling shocked, angry, sad --and all of the above -- sometimes all in one day. There were days when I felt emotions I didn’t even know I was capable of. Yet I can’t compare how I felt to anyone else in my family. It’s all unique and personal -- very personal. The lesson I learned from this is to have patience and to understand. It’s definitely not easy, but taking a second to breathe and show compassion will help everyone get through.

Lasting Feelings

The last lesson I learned was the most recent. No matter how much money you made, what car you drove or what job you had, all that matters when you die is how you treated others. You will be remembered for how you made people feel. It is up to you to be a light to those you encounter. It will never hurt you to be a person who makes everybody feel like a somebody. After all, being kind would not be a bad legacy to leave behind.

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