March 31, 2010
By Daniel Szwiec BRONZE, Palatine, Illinois
Daniel Szwiec BRONZE, Palatine, Illinois
2 articles 0 photos 0 comments

My grandma died about two years ago on my birthday. She was elderly but her death was still unexpected. The night before she passed she was in hospice and my family visited her. It was the first time I saw her in awhile and things were not going so well. After leaving the retirement home I felt confident that she would recover because my family is full of fighters and the thought of her passing was unrealistic at the time. However, the next morning, while I was receiving the materialistic items and going through the societal and unimportant traditions that make up birthdays, she passed. Her death not only made me think about my life and the things I value, but also strengthened the simple and transcendental values within me. I now have a better idea of the important things in my life, and I am realizing how many unimportant things get in the ways of those.
Losing someone is not an easy thing to go through, and I know that from experience. But the death of my grandma impacted me greater than anyone else has in my life. Grandparents are our links to a world and generation before us that we cannot learn about in textbooks. My grandma was born in 1920. During her life she went through an unheard of economic depression, a world war, the moon landing, four other wars, revolutions in civil rights and young generations, and I never talked to her about any of it. I never fully appreciated her in my life and I never really understood how blessed I was to have living grandparents at all. For the last eight or so years of her life my grandma lived in a retirement home, and I would dread going there. I didn’t like environment of the place, being around elderly people I didn’t know, and I just felt like being with friends or anywhere else. So I would try to make excuses or say I had plans so I wouldn’t have to go. Countless times I could have, and should have gone to see her but I did the selfish thing and didn’t go. The anguish I feel about her passing is far less than the guilt I feel. I undergo guilt when I think about how much I missed by not seeing her, by not talking to her as much as I should have when I was with her, and not expressing my love. Taking her health for granted is one of the biggest mistakes I have ever made. I didn’t spend quality time with her like a good grandson and for that I am deeply sorry.
However, while her life is over and the things I did can’t be changed, the lives of others close to me are not. After my grandma passed, I know that I need to spend more time with my friends and family, but especially my family. Over the past few years I have started to drift away from my parents. This is normal for many teenagers, but just because it is does not mean that it should be. I now understand that no matter what the norm is in society, I do not need to follow it. I especially can’t justify me breaking away from my parents by saying it happens to everyone, or that it’s just part of being a teenager. So I realize I should not and cannot follow society when it comes to families and things that don’t last forever. I understand that I am lucky to even have a family and I have full intentions of improving our relationship while I still can.
I have also been inspired in a physical and materialistic sense. Before, like most people in our society, I took little things for granted. I took my home, schooling, games, TV’s, phones, and other comforts for granted. I never fully comprehended that the majority of people on the earth don’t have the items and materials I do. Now I do and I try to use them as seldom as possible, and I encourage others to do so. Even donating possessions like old phones, clothes, or anything I don’t use is something I have started to do. A simple life is one that I find most appealing, a life with less materialistic goods that our society values so much. Henry David Thoreau summarizes my mindset perfectly in his book Walden, "Simplicity, Simplicity, simplicity!" (Thoreau 237).
Furthermore, I took nature and the world around me for granted. In this day and age it is especially vital to value nature for its beauty because it might not be around for much longer. The trees, bushes, snow, and sky I pass on my way to school or pass on long car rides are examples of things I did not used to notice. However, now I realize the full importance of these things around me. I understand that some people don’t get the opportunity to see things like this, the simple beauty of the world around us is something I, and everyone else, should start paying attention as well.

With the realizations I have undergone I am starting to change my life. Getting rid of the materials and unimportant things I can do without. Watching TV or texting my friends over talking to my family are no longer my priorities. Now, instead of playing videogames or being on the computer, I’d rather be with friends or family. After my grandma passed I didn’t think much about what her death really represented for me. But thinking about it over the past few months, and as I have matured has resulted in my views on life being altered greatly. The important thing like real and quality relationships, and becoming closer with family, friends, and nature are what I strive for now. I recommend this for everyone, especially my generation. I recommend a radical change and break from the technological and materialistic norms in our society.
I’m glad that I have taken so many positive lessons and ideas from the passing of my grandma. However, I’m not pleased that it took a death for me to evaluate what’s important to me ad change my life. But I did discover and I hope others to do. The main lessons I have learned is that we don’t appreciate everything going on around us and we should change that. We fail to see the beauty in the people and nature around us, and while they will not always be around, technology will be. Most importantly we need to understand what the truly significant things and values in our lives are, and hold on to them.

The author's comments:
The author Lou Ung inspired this piece.

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