Growing up, my grandparents always told me “everything happens for a reason.” If I fell off my bike, didn’t ace my algebra test, went through a bad breakup, they would without fail, respond with, “Well, everything happens for a reason.”
My grandparents had a love story that felt as if it was right out of a classic romance film. Boy and girl grow up in neighboring small towns together. Boy and girl meet in late teens and fall madly in love. Boy and girl get married and move to Rochester, New York so boy can get a job. Boy and girl settle down and start a growing family together. Boy and girl live happily ever after.
The way my grandfather looked at my grandma is hard to put into words. It was the kind of look that, to me, was the epitome of true love — the kind of look so powerful that it could be felt by anyone in the room. It was a kind of look I don’t see too often anymore. When I imagine my grandparents together I always think back to their quintessential phrase — “everything happens for a reason.” When I watched them together everything made sense to me, as if everything all really did happen for a reason.
When my grandfather became ill, I was about 8 years old. From the moment he had his first heart attack, my grandmother devoted all of her time to taking care of him. She cooked him special meals, took him to all of his appointments, prepared his medicine — she did it all. When my grandfather passed away in May of 2014, it came as a shock to my entire family. My grandmother was absolutely devastated. All I remember from the day he passed was my grandmother saying, “I’ve lost my best friend.” In my entire life, I had never truly witnessed heartbreak until I watched my grandmother’s expressions as my Aunt read my grandpa’s eulogy at his funeral.
Last summer, soon after the one-year anniversary of my grandfather’s passing, I moved across the country from Rochester, New York to San Francisco, California for an internship. While living in one of the coolest, most beautiful cities in the United States, I felt a feeling that I had never felt before: homesickness. I had never felt something so disabling in my entire life. I stopped eating, I stopped sleeping, and I constantly had the urge to cry. I have an extremely close relationship with my parents and being across the country for the first time was not the amazing experience that I initially thought it would be.
After surviving my first week in San Francisco I found a letter in my mailbox from my grandmother. In the letter, she wrote about all of the things she was doing at my age. When she was 20 years old, she was engaged to my grandfather and was living with him in a small apartment. She had not gone to college and was working as a receptionist at a local business.
My grandmother lives with little regret, because she believes everything happens for a reason. However, she confessed to me that one regret she has was never jumping out of her comfort zone. My grandfather was her comfort zone, and as much as she loves him, she made all of her decisions based on him. My grandma told me she wished that she made some of the insane decisions that one is supposed to make when they are in their twenties, and that she had gotten out and explored both independently and along with my grandfather. However, as she always says, everything happens for a reason.
This letter had an immediate impact on my state of mind at that moment. I started thinking about how weird life is and how love is even weirder. Many people my age are constantly worrying about what decision comes next and rarely do we stop to just think, what if everything happens for a reason? Sure, maybe it sucks that we didn’t get that job offer, and maybe it hurts when we break up with our significant other, but maybe, just maybe, it’s all for a reason. Many of us learn important life lessons from our grandparents. I am lucky enough to say that I learned not only a life lesson, but a way of life all from my grandparents and their powerful love story.
Jackie Bergin is a New York (not City) based storyteller, daydreamer and Star Wars Enthusiast. Aside from collecting lightsabers, she can often be found reading, making lists and eating large amounts of pizza. Follow her antics on Twitter and Instagram.
(Image via author)