Just over two weeks ago, I attended the funeral of my Grandpa Bill. Grandpa was 91 when he died unexpectedly after having a heart attack. Grandpa was, and is, one of my favorite people in the world. He loved life, and he loved those around him. And perhaps almost as much, Grandpa loved to tell stories. And even though Grandpa is no longer with us physically, his stories remain with me, tucked in the quiet spaces of my mind and heart where his spirit dwells.
I believe in stories.
Grandpa told stories about his childhood, about flying airplanes in the 1940s, about his business ventures, and even about the people in his senior citizen apartment building. He made a story out of each of his experiences, highlighting details and crafting characters to create vivid, and often humorous, anecdotes. He would usually chuckle to himself during the course of his telling. In one of my favorite stories, Grandpa would recall how his older sisters used to punish him when he was younger. They would take him by the back of his overalls, which had crisscrossed straps, and hang him over a doorknob. Because he was very small, his feet barely touched the ground, making it impossible for him to release himself. And there he would have to hang until one of his sisters decided it was time for him to be free.
I believe in stories because they allow us to be time travelers. Through stories, we journey with someone into their experiences and are present with them, even if we weren’t there when the event happened. And, when the person isn’t with us anymore, we can still travel together on the wings of the stories they shared with us and in the stories we ourselves create from our times spent together.
I believe in listening to stories, telling stories, and perhaps above all, remembering stories. I’m starting to think that all of the reading comprehension tests we had to do in elementary school were for a higher reason. When we had to recall the characters’ names, places, or where they were going when tragedy struck, maybe we were practicing the sacred art of remembering stories. When I bring to mind the stories of my Grandpa, my husband, or my friend Elena, I feel connected to them in a way that, ironically, transcends words. We share something intangible, and for a moment, our histories become one. It is through shared stories that our relationships become something truly notable, stories in and of themselves.
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