As a kid, I always spent summers playing at my Grandma and Grandad’s house out in the country north of Colby, Kansas. I would visit my great-grandparents Harold and Willodean along with Nana Darlene and Papa Larry in Hays. I loved spending time with all my grandparents. Two loved ones I didn’t get to see that often were my Nana Denise and Papa John as they lived in New Hampshire.
That changed towards the end of my senior year of high school. They packed up their apartment and moved halfway across the country to live in Colby with my mom, my brother and myself. Two people I had only seen a handful of times in my life now lived right upstairs, but that’s changed, too.
I recently lost my Nana Denise to cancer. I won’t lie, I cried a lot and it’s hard to lose someone you love, especially when you were only now really getting to spend time with them. People don’t believe me when I say I am fine and not sad. I am sad, but I stay positive by remembering all the laughs we shared and telling myself she doesn’t want me to be sad. I also remember all that she has taught me through the years. Now I’ll share them with you.
Lesson 1: Always bring a camera with you
My nana was a nurse, but she loved photography. She took her Nikon D50 with her everywhere. For as long as I can remember, it never left her side. I remember going on a trip with her when I was younger and crying because I didn’t have a camera like her. So we stopped at a gas station, got a disposable camera, and I was the happiest kid in the world.
She always told me to bring my camera everywhere and capture every moment. I never really brought my camera with me, but I always have my phone just in case. Now that she has passed away, I bring my actual camera with me more. I haven’t used it much, but it helps me feel close to her.
Lesson 2: Be kind, but be assertive
My nana was super nice, but she also wasn’t afraid to tell people when something was wrong. Whether is was getting the wrong meal at a restaurant or having people park in handicap spots when they weren’t handicapped, she would tell them off. She would also thank people for helping her in any way possible.
I consider myself a nice person, but I am working on the nice while assertive part. It can be hard to be a woman and not be called bossy or something even worse. Somehow my nana did it with grace and I hope to live up to this standard.
Lesson 3: Go on adventures
The day after my nana passed away, I just wanted to lay in bed all day and cry. I knew I couldn’t do that, so, instead, I did what she would do: go on an adventure. I went to the Konza Prairie in the 40 degree weather and took photos.
Adventures don’t have to be leaving the country and having an amazing experience. It can be as simple as taking a different route than usual on your way home or driving down a dirt road. My nana always was driving in the middle of nowhere and taking her camera along.
Now, I plan on taking more time to go places I haven’t been before and enjoying myself.
There are also some quirky sayings I remember hearing like “speak now or forever hold your pee” before road trips and advice like “don’t marry a boy with thick hair.” She was also famous for making up songs, writing story books for me and having a big, full laugh. Those are what I will hold on to and smile about, not cry.
Bailey Britton is the news editor for the Collegian and a sophomore in mass communications. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Collegian. Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.