”The question of why we suffer is unanswerable, but how we suffer defines our character and shapes our lives more than we care to acknowledge.”
– Charles Isherwood, New York Times critic
Have you ever stopped to think about who in your life has been your greatest teacher? Now I don’t mean the one who stands in front of the classroom, though for some that person may have been, I mean the one who teaches you when you don’t even realize that you’re being taught. The one whose choices, whose bravery, whose outlook, shaped your very own.
I have, and today would have been the birthday of my greatest teacher.
Mimi, aka my maternal grandmother, was my greatest teacher. She never once lectured me. She never once even really gave me advice. Her lessons came in a walking guidebook. The way she lived, the way she loved, and the way she suffered were her lessons to me.
My grandmother lived from a place of joy. She lived with a seeming innocence that life was nothing other than beautiful. As a child I remember her as the human embodiment of peace and happiness.
Does this mean that her life was easy? No, it was not easy. Her life had some very big struggles, some gigantic heartbreaks. Yet if you asked her how those years were for her, she would shrug and say (with all truthfulness), I guess they were hard, but I don’t really remember it being all that bad.
Mimi taught me that today is perfect, no matter our struggles. She taught me that people have limitations, yet we do not have to make theirs our own. She taught me that the best way to spend a day is doing what you love, with the people whom you love, and releasing everyone else to live their own stories–too excited by how your story is unfolding.
She was my greatest teacher.
Without the way she loved me, without the carefree summers of my youth spent playing for hours in her pool and lounging in her warm lap, I would not be me, and I would not have blossomed into a real mother through infertility.
We will all suffer in our lives, every single one of us. And so the question is not why we suffer, the question is how the way we suffer will define our character, will shape our tomorrows.
So today I thank Mimi for being my life’s greatest teacher. For being the one who taught me that even in suffering, and in sufferings aftermath, there is profound joy, forgiveness, and love.
Happy birthday Mimi. I miss you every single day, perhaps especially today.