“What you thinking about granddad?” harps the young man.
The young man, barely a quarter of century, sits nestled alongside his elder looking out onto a sun-drenched and flowering English garden.
The old mans frail hand drapes over the arm of the weathered mahogany bench upon which they sit— the contours and cracks of his hand seemingly intertwined with grain in the wood.
The old man remains pensive. His eyes slightly glazed over, but with a shade of a smile wrestling it’s way out from under his wrinkled face.
He clears his throat, before responding “I’m just thinking about the good old times my boy”. His shallow breaths seem barely enough to provide the fuel necessary to keep alive, never mind talk.
“The old times? What do you mean, like when you were a kid?” responds his young friend.
Once again, a brief moment of silence. You could hear the cogs working in the old man’s mind, as he thought about how best to respond to the enquiry.
“When I was a kid is just the start,” remarks the old man, “for me, the old times is a whole life of memories — all 87 years I’ve been alive on this planet.”
The boy looks across at his grandfather with wonder in his eyes — and without muttering a word, seems to be willing his grandfather to go on.
The old man is wise enough to recognise a cue to continue, as well as a chance to impart some advice on the impressionable young man.
“Well son, I’ve led a long, full and happy life. I was blessed to be born into a loving and caring family. They were the most wonderful human beings I ever knew, and gave me the foundations upon which I could build as a person. I got nothing but unconditional support, and they pushed me to excel in everything I did.
They helped me see the world, they gave me an education and lit up my life in every waking moment. There never has, and never will be a day where I don’t feel the warmth of their love. The memories created and shared with them will never leave me.”
The old man pauses for a moment, and clears his throat once more. The corner of his eye swells with a tear, but it clings on to his crowsfeet like a bird on a branch.
“You know, my parents gave me a set of values, which in turn I used to live my life by. When I look back, I know I’ve stayed true to those values each and every day. I think I can firmly say that is what defined the memories I made.”
The old man pauses. His aging body struggles as his emotions take hold. He takes a minute to relax himself. The young man places his hand on the arched back of the old man to offer comfort.
The old man composes himself, and continues.
“I have no regrets. I never hated anyone, and I loved everyone unconditionally. I travelled the world, to enrich my life with new people and experiences. I was always ambitious, and fiercely passionate. I surrounded myself with people who constantly inspired me. I focussed each and every day on being happy, and never let money influence my mind or my decisions. I made empathy the very core of my being, and no matter where I went, I always kept my family with me and in my heart.”
The old man pauses, contemplatively glancing once again towards the beauty of the garden.
“There was a particular moment, when I was a lot younger, that had quite some significance on the course of my life. I had a moment of realisation one day. I realised that the people I surrounded myself with, both my family and friends, with or without knowing, were shaping me as a human being. Every interaction, no matter how big or small, was impacting upon my life, my attitudes and my experiences.
And you know, most of the time they never asked for anything in return.
I wanted to repay them, but I really didn’t know how. But what I did know, was that leading a comfortable and easy life would not be sufficient repayment for the time, energy and love that these people had invested in me and our relationships.
It was at this moment I knew I had to push myself that bit further. I needed to take a big step outside of my comfort zone. I honestly believed that this would be my way of demonstrating to them that I value the incredible contribution they had made, and hopefully would continue to make, to my life.
Then, and only then, would I know that these people would be proud of me.
And once I had taken that step, I don’t think I ever looked back. I approached each day with clear eyes and a full heart, and a determination to make the most of the life I had been afforded.
And I cannot implore you enough, that you should live your life the same.”
The young man is clearly taken aback by his grandfather’s words.
“I’ll try Granddad, I’ll try”.
The young man pulls himself together; a little overwhelmed by it all, and rises to his feet. He gives a reassuring grasp at the old man’s shoulder and walks away.
Barely 2 yards, he turns back to the old man, and with a crackled voice he asks “Hang on, you never said what that big step was. What was it you did?”
As a smile stretches across his face, the tear that once clung on so tightly finally loses it’s grip, and tumbles down the old man’s cheek.
“Well my boy,” he huffs “I packed up my life in England, left behind my family and friends, and moved to New York City”.
Dedicated to the people that made me, and make me. My mum, dad and two incredible sisters.
And to every single person that has invested in me as a person in the past 27 years. Every family member, every friend, every enemy, every teacher, every colleague and every one I’ve been blessed to cross paths with.
Thank you. I’ll see you real soon.