Remembering Pop

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My grandfather was a quiet man with a snarky sense of humor, but what he was more than anything was good man who cared about his family. I remember being a kid and walking around our 10 acre property with him in upstate Pennsylvania. He taught me all about the trees. I remember one that smelled like bubble gum and another that taste like root beer. He took us deer spotting and bird watching, and my grandmother took us berry picking and to Sunday bingo. I remember those days fondly.

My most cherished memory of my Pop was when I was 21. What 21 year-old college student signs up to spend a week on the road with her parents and grandparents? This girl. At ages 10, 20, 30 and now nearly 40, I’ve always love spending time with my family (perhaps not at age 14, but that’s a different story).

I had the great fortune to travel to Europe a few times while in college, and it opened up a whole world to me about art, history and humanity. Although I was a business major, I took every philosophy, art history, and anthropology class I could in college. I was overwhelmed and excited about my newfound knowledge.

So my parents, my two Grans and my Pop rented a van and traveled all over Colorado. As I said, my Pop was a quiet man, but once you got him on a topic, he really opened up. We sat in the back of the van together the whole trip, and I started telling him about what I was learning in college. I brought up Friedrich Nietzsche, The Trial of Socrates, Van Gogh, Monet and Gauguin. And then my Pop started talking about all of these people, philosophies and creations in incredible analytical detail. I was absolutely floored by his knowledge. He was a blue-collar, self-educated man. And for the first time, I understood the extent of his self-education. We talked for hours a day in the back of that van on our road trip. We spent the most time talking about the impressionism because it was my new passion, and he knew so much about it as an artist himself.

What I liked most about our conversations was how interested he was in spending time with me and hearing my opinions. He was my intellectual superior by far, but he really wanted to know his granddaughter’s thoughts … and I really wanted to know his.

Pop wasn’t the most affectionate guy, but he was very loving. At the end of that week, he hugged me and said, “We’re kindred spirits, Lis.” And that’s a memory I’ll hold onto forever. I love you, Pop.

~ LiAnn

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The last three and a half years have been the most challenging of my life – and I’m not talking about law school – I’m talking about learning how to live again. I try, but not a single day goes by that I don’t think about it. The month I spent in surgical ICU was my own personal hell. I read war stories, and I feel comparatively that this was my own war against death. I won. The great spirit wanted me to win.

In the aftermath, the greatest comfort I’ve found is in the stories people have shared with me of their own personal battles with death or their struggles with daily pain that also have no visual manifestation. This is why I always openly share my story.

After the major battles were over, I wanted nothing more than to return to the path I had planned – of course that had to be altered, but I worked like mad, through the physical pain and limitations, through the cognitive frustration, through the feeling of detachment from humans that haven’t met death. I’ve pushed through so relentlessly with two goals: 1. Become an attorney, just as I had planned 2. See the entire world. I’m working diligently on both.

The first goal is completely out of my hands for the moment. I have done everything I possibly can to achieve it, and there is nothing to do but wait for results. Every once in a while a fear of failing the bar surfaces, but I visualize those fears like Sophia’s (my niece’s) bubbles – popping and dissolving in thin air. It just doesn’t matter as much as I used to think. Life adjusts.

The second goal is well on its way to being accomplished, but it will gladly be a life long journey 🙂

In this moment, I just want to breathe. I remember, in ICU, when it had been a month since I had eaten food, and all I wanted was a meal – now I am tasting my food with new senses.
I remember when I was trying to take a few steps for the first time, and all I wanted was to do yoga – now I do yoga with an enlightened perspective. 

Now, I desire to take in the world like it’s my first trip here. Taste, see, and smell (yeah even the peeps next to me on the plane) everything! The trek from Miami to Vancouver was hard on my injuries, and I know there is more of that to come. But for this moment – this one moment – I have no stress, no deadlines, no responsibilities. It’s just me and the world. I am savoring every minute of the present. This moment right now is what I’ve worked so hard to obtain.

It’s a cold and rainy day in Vancouver and all my plans had to be adjusted – but I’m as happy as can be.

Life is beautiful! Life is a very precious gift; open it carefully and enjoy it slowly.