12 Things My Grandmother Told Me Before She Died

12 Things My Grandmother Told Me Before She Died

When my grandmother, Zelda, passed away a few years ago at the age of 90, she left me with a box of miscellaneous items from her house that she knew I had grown to appreciate over the years.  Among these items is an old leather-bound journal that she aptly named her ‘Inspiration Journal.’

Throughout the second half of her life, she used this journal to jot down ideas, thoughts, quotes, song lyrics, and anything else that moved her.  She would read excerpts from her journal to me when I was growing up, and I would listen and ask questions.  I honestly credit a part of who I am now to the wisdom she bestowed on me when I was young.

Today I want to share some of these inspiring excerpts with you.  I’ve done my best to sort, copyedit, and reorganize the content into twelve inspiring bullet points.  Enjoy.

  1. Breathe in the future, breathe out the past.  No matter where you are or what you’re going through, always believe that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.  Never expect, assume, or demand.  Just do your best, control the elements you can control, and then let it be.  Because once you have done what you can, if it is meant to be, it will happen, or it will show you the next step that needs to be taken.
  2. Life CAN be simple again.  Just choose to focus on one thing at a time.  You don’t have to do it all, and you don’t have to do it all right now.  Breathe, be present, and do your best with what’s in front of you.  What you put into life, life will eventually give you back many times over.  Read The Power of Now.
  3. Let others take you as you are, or not at all.  Speak your truth even if your voice shakes.  By being yourself, you put something beautiful into the world that was not there before.  So walk your path confidently and don’t expect anyone else to understand your journey, especially if they have not been exactly where you are going.
  4. You are not who you used to be, and that’s OK.  You’ve been hurt; you’ve gone through numerous ups and downs that have made you who you are today.  Over the years, so many things have happened – things that have changed your perspective, taught you lessons, and forced your spirit to grow.  As time passes, nobody stays the same, but some people will still tell you that you have changed.  Respond to them by saying, “Of course I’ve changed.  That’s what life is all about.  But I’m still the same person, just a little stronger now than I ever was before.”
  5. Everything that happens helps you grow, even if it’s hard to see right now.  Circumstances will direct you, correct you, and perfect you over time.  So whatever you do, hold on to hope.  The tiniest thread will twist into an unbreakable cord.  Let hope anchor you in the possibility that this is not the end of your story – that the change in the tides will eventually bring you to peaceful shores.
  6. Do not educate yourself to be rich, educate yourself to be happy.  That way when you get older you’ll know the value of things, not the price.  In the end, you will come to realize that the best days are the days when you don’t need anything extreme or special to happen to make you smile.  You simply appreciate the moments and feel gratitude, seeking nothing else, nothing more.  That is what true happiness is all about.  Read Happiness Is a Serious Problem.
  7. Be determined to be positive.  Understand that the greater part of your misery or unhappiness is determined not by your circumstances, but by your attitude.  So smile at those who often try to begrudge or hurt you, show them what’s missing in their life and what they can’t take away from you.
  8. Pay close attention to those you care about.  Sometimes when a loved one says, “I’m okay,” they need you to look them in the eyes, hug them tight, and reply, “I know you’re not.”  And don’t be too upset if some people only seem to remember you when they need you.  Feel privileged that you are like a beacon of light that comes to their minds when there is darkness in their lives.
  9. Sometimes you have to let a person go so they can grow.  Because, over the course of their lives, it is not what you do for them, but what you have taught them to do for themselves that will make them a successful human being.
  10. Sometimes getting the results you crave means stripping yourself of people that don’t serve your best interests.  This allows you to make space for those who support you in being the absolute best version of yourself.  It happens gradually as you grow.  You find out who you are and what you want, and then you realize that people you’ve known forever don’t see things the way you do.  So you keep the wonderful memories, but find yourself moving on.
  11. It’s better to look back on life and say, “I can’t believe I did that,” than to look back and say, “I wish I did that.”  In the end, people will judge you in some way anyway.  So don’t live your life trying to impress others.  Instead live your life impressing yourself.  Love yourself enough to never lower your standards for anyone.  Read The Last Lecture.
  12. If youre looking for a happy ending and cant seem to find one, maybe it’s time to start looking for a new beginning.  Brush yourself off and accept that you have to fail from time to time.  That’s how you learn.  The strongest people out there – the ones who laugh the hardest with a genuine smile – are the same people who have fought the toughest battles.  They’re smiling because they’ve decided that they’re not going to let anything hold them down, they’re moving on to a new beginning.

Photo by: Gabriele Fanelli


  1. Rex says

    Thank you for this inspiring post! Coming from a tough day, this is perfect to help me bounce back. You are doing an awesome job.


  2. JasonBldrCO says

    This was easily one of the best Stumbles I’ve ever found. Thank you for sharing. We would all be better off if we had that sort of wisdom in our families.

  3. Christophe White says

    Your grandmother was very wise. I only wish I was as wise as her and I could pass on such wisdom. I hope you can look back on your time together with a smile and a happy heart. Blessings to you

  4. says

    I love this and thanks for reminding me of The Last Lecture. Randy Pausch was a true inspiration.

    The only point I’d take issue with is #6. While I agree that happiness is of course more important than money, I don’t like when people try to suggest that these two very important aspects of life are mutually exclusive. Many goals are simply unattainable without a strong financial foundation. I think anyone who disagrees with that is either naive or isn’t dreaming big enough! :)

  5. says

    Very beautiful. I particularly liked the one about how life CAN be simple again. With all the technology and daily “duties,” we forget that we can simply focus on one task at a time and take it easy.

    – Maria Alexandra

  6. Kathy says

    Your grandma was a very wise woman!
    Bless her heart to live 90+ years and share her thoughts with you. Her gift to you and your gift to us! Many many thanks! Keep up the good work!

  7. Bill says

    Incredibly wise counsel that makes me reconsider my life in a new light and all the important people in my life — thank you to your Grandmother & you for compiling & sharing such thoughtful & beautiful words!!!

  8. reem says

    I was googling things to do with my grandmother and I came across this amazing post. Literally, everything that I needed to hear to motivate me and make me reflect on my attitude as of late, was in this post. It made me remember all the pieces of wisdom that my other three grandparents who had passed away, have given me over time. I think I want to write a blog post about those pieces of advice as well.

  9. Janine Bowen says

    Wow. I just came across this – I know it was posted a long time ago but thank you for posting it and for leaving it up. It is beautifully written and your grandmother’s profound wisdom showed up in my Stumble at the perfect time. Thank you too Grandma Zelda – awesome philosophy and great job on your grandson too!


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