It’s been thirty-one (31) years since my grandmother passed away.  When I think of her, I still become choked up and how much my family and I lost with her passing.  She was my family’s cornerstone and when cancer took her, it took a big part of the way I saw life.

I was eleven when she died, which means she’s been gone the majority of my life.  And while many might tell me to, “get over it and let her go,” I see no reason to do so.  I don’t ruminate about her death nor do I think I’m preventing her from resting in peace in any way.  She’s a saint in my world and though she isn’t here in physical form, I’m comforted by the thought that her spirit has been with me all along.

Life has a way of forcing us to let go of people and circumstances before we’re ready.  Zen Buddhists may say that attachment is the root cause of suffering.  I can see their point and I do understand that being overly attached to the physical component of humanity can bring about unearned worry and fear.  I get that; one of the first things I have people do when I begin a treatment program is urge them to make peace with the possibility of death.  It may sound harsh, but something wonderful happens when someone really thinks about his or her loved one dying.

When the reality that someone might die at any point due to an addiction sinks in, the anger that usually festers around an addiction begins to dissipate.  The thought that a mother could lose her baby, or that a wife could lose her husband, can bring about acceptance of the person struggling with an addiction.  This doesn’t mean that the behaviors associated with addiction become “ok,” it just means that love triumphs and those who struggle are once again seen as people and not just as addicts.

We could all learn from the lesson that death can bring.   Too often, we take this life for granted and forget that every single person’s physical reality will end.  No one’s physical life lasts forever and, in the end, a person’s spirit will carry on in our hearts and minds for as long as we exist.  Therefore, it seems to me that recognizing our own spirit and the spirit of others is the key to cherishing each other.  No one’s perfect and wanting ourselves and/or those around us to be perfect seems to be a waste of time.  To me, it seems more important to cherish each day we get with those we love, regardless of whether we approve of their lifestyle.

My grandmother’s spirit has far outlived her cancer.  She was good and strong and beautiful and I will strive to live up to the example she set for me and for my entire family.  She wasn’t perfect, but her spirit lives perfectly in my heart.  I carry all of those who I love in my soul and their spirits are with me even when they aren’t.  Letting go, in turns out, may be unnecessary.