Grandpa checked out of his body in the early morning hours of July 4th. He was NINETY years old, which is incredible — nearly a century of life! I was asked to write his obituary, so I was able to have an intimate conversation with my grandmother in remembrance of him and everything he stood for.
The whole experience got me thinking about the past… and how it shapes our experience of the present.
For me, one of my favorite parts of my past — specifically being from Wisconsin — is all the weird phrases people from Wisconsin say. When my own Midwest slang occasionally pops up in a conversation, I’m accustomed to the silent, confused stare and I quickly clarify. But when I first moved out west, I had no idea these phrases were so regional! I remember the first time I realized not everyone says “a horse a piece” or “geez louise” or calls a Pontoon Boat a “float boat.” I couldn’t believe it!
There’s a hilarious comedian named Charlie Berens that has built his career on this — I’m just going to link these words in case you want a good laugh along with instructions on my grandpa’s favorite cocktail, the Old Fashioned. That video is actually what family gatherings sound like sometimes! This week, I learned one of Grandpa’s phrases was “Sprinkle the Infield!” which he would use when instructing a bartender to buy a round of drinks for everyone at the bar. I love that, and I love how it speaks to the sort of guy my grandfather was.
Now, the vernacular and mannerisms are a source of pride, but I wasn’t always that way. When I was in college, I realized how I talked was different. I even succeeded at smothering my thick Midwest accent in favor of a more “neutral” sound.
I wish I would have been prouder of what makes me unique. But alas, that was the lesson I learned over time, and the lesson I was reminded of this weekend, as I remember a man who played such an important role in the evolution of our family.
The more I study yoga, the more I’m certain that the way we’re raised — the ups, downs and everything in between — is uniquely designed to equip us with the tenacity to move through life, and serve this planet exactly how we’re meant to. We can either smother it down and "forget" where we come from, or honor our past because it ultimately got us to here.
Nothing is a mistake. We are not a mistake. We cannot make the "wrong choice" in life... there are just choices, period.
There are things that toughen us up. There are events that teach us hard lessons, and others that run us through a barrage of emotions. We experience moments of bliss, joy, sadness, and at times when we’re really struggling and stuck, we suffer — sometimes for long periods of time.
But as we refine our understanding of what it means to live, we’re able to look in the review mirror, and change the lens through which we view our past. Thus, the past is changeable. Of course, the facts don’t change, but over time as we witness the ripple effect of each life event — whether one day after, or one year after, or ten years down the road — we see how even the most traumatic events and monumental moments actually shape us and teach us.
Easier said that done, right? The key here is WILLINGNESS. As some point, to move forward from our past, we must have a willingness to learn and evolve. Another word for evolve? Change. Thus, the reason anything happens at all is so we can change, if we choose. Change is the entire point. If we’re not changing with every step of the way, we’re not learning. And when we’re not learning, we’re stuck. And when we’re stuck, this is suffering.
My teacher, Anand, puts it simply: “Evolve or suffer.” The choice is ours.
So, as I see myself and my family changing with this latest shift, I’m comforted. This is the point! I am reminded that we haven’t lost him. Although we cannot find Grandpa anymore in his physical form, it’s impossible to lose everything my grandfather gave to our family (so please don't be sorry for me!). Our memories and our willingness to learn from the past keeps him alive one ripple at a time, and our lives are forever changed because of the life he lived.
Sending you all love, light, and good health,
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Originally hailing from Wisconsin, Mollie is a cheesehead transplant to Northwest Montana, with degrees in Retail and Journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Today, she lives off the grid, half the year in a Tiny House & half the year in a yurt — both of which she and her husband, Sean, built by hand. Nonprofit Executive Director by day, Mollie also owns and teaches at Yoga Hive — a chain of community yoga studios in the valley.