My Nana’s smile is a bright crescent moon on a cloudless night. She is the most loving, caring person I have ever known. Each year, my family visits our Grandma and Grandpa in upstate New York, and it is the best part of my summer. We spend hours zipping around lake DeRuyter – waterskiing, wakeboarding, and tubing – with “Captain Grandpa” up front steering the ship. When I was little, my Nana would sit in the “co- pilot seat”, watching us with a glimmering smile. To her, there was nothing better than being on that boat watching her grandchildren fly across the water.
Unfortunately, about five years ago, my grandmother developed rheumatoid arthritis in her knees, fingers, and vertebrae, and the bumping of the boat became too much for her. When I was about eleven, I remember shouting up to the front porch saying, “Come on Nana; hop in the boat!” She said, “I wish honey, but I can’t come on the boat anymore.” She tried to hide it, but I could tell she was extremely upset. Since that day, Nana has been confined to her comfy chair on the front porch as most of us go out on the lake. However, as bad as her condition gets, she is always happy when we’re around, saying, “I’m so glad we’re all together.” As limiting as my Nana’s condition is, being a part of a strong, connected family gives her something to live for. It is what drives her. About three weeks ago, a girl, Beckie, whom I used to ski with, was making her way to the racecourse when her ski tip dug into a clump of snow, sending her careening into the woods. After being airlifted with a broken femur and severe head injuries, we thought she would make it. A few days later, Beckie took her last breath, and I was devastated.
That night, I thought about how lucky I am to be surrounded by siblings and parents who love me, and I remembered my Nana and how central family is in her life. Without it, life would be painful. In my mind, the worst part about Beckie’s death is that it has left her parents alone, with a hole in their hearts, for Beckie was an only child. I am confident that they will find a way to move on, but finding the sense of fulfillment and joy that Beckie brought to her family will most likely be a never-ending struggle. However, this experience has reinforced for me the power of a strong family connection and the happiness it brings.
Seeing my Nana thrive on the connection of family alone, in spite of her debilitating condition, and seeing Beckie’s family torn by her loss, has helped me realize just how important family is. This experience prompted me to express these thankful sentiments in a reflective letter to my parents, for this family connection, I know, will always carry me.
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