At around 4:45 am this morning, I lost my grandfather.
He was a kind hardworking man who was about to turn 91. My grandfather and grandmother helped raise me since I was a very young child. I used to fear the day I would lose my beloved grandparents, but then, I experienced my own near-death about 10 years ago from an accident, and learned to see each moment in full bloom—not anticipating more or less.
Today, however, I felt overwhelmed with purpose in knowing how much old-world mentality my grandfather imparted on me during the most formative years of my life.
I’m feeling so fortunate for the moments I got to experience with my grandfather, the man affectionately known to our family as “The Energizer Bunny”.
He recently retired from a job where he usually got to work at 4:45 am, serving a local community gas and helping a few friends manage their life as senior citizens. Like most grandparents, he was there when I needed help, but he was also there for our small neighborhood in NY.
At his job, he broke the same leg on three separate occasions.
Once, at the age of 72, he was on a ladder changing the placards for gas prices and fell.
About 10 years later, a car ran over the same leg and the tire went towards his abdomen; he directed the panicked driver to not reverse direction but go forward so it wouldn’t travel up towards his head.
The final break occurred when he shattered his shin bone upon getting bumped by a car.
Prior to these accidents, he was a professional jitterbug dancer during WWII and an avid golfer.
As a child, when I began to ride a two-wheeler, one day my tire was punctured. My grandfather turned my bike upside-down and explained the process of repairing it. As hard a worker he was, he wasn’t very mindful in a mechanical sense, but his intention was clear; he wanted to help however he could. Looking back from what could be a distorted time reference, it seemed a long and arduous maneuver—I clearly remember sweat dripping down his face. As the inner tube was mended and the job almost done, he tried using a screw driver to draw the chain back and it lost leverage, puncturing the webbing of this other hand. I remember shrieking in horror as blood seemed to squirt from his hand, yet my grandfather remained calm and told me it’s just his hand and that the job was almost over as he tightened the axel in place.
The depth of this lesson didn’t sink in until I had suffered a broken hand three weeks before my final World Open Martial Arts tournament.
In martial arts, bones are often externally conditioned by gradual striking a hard object like sand or a wooden post. Having a structural misalignment in my forearm from my accident 10 years ago, I wasn’t properly conditioning my left hand. Though my hand was not able to grab or strike, for eight years my training involved ways to use my hand energetically. As I considered withdrawing, I learned that my grandfather was coming to the event and suddenly recalled his lesson vividly.
I realized, upon reflection, a broken bone entailed an idea of not being complete or whole.
On a more dramatic scale, someone who has lost a limb is still whole despite the lack of whatever physical appendage.
Had these eight years not taught me to be unified?
My decision to fight with a broken hand thus didn’t seem rash or enduring, but a reminder to myself to see something through despite the injury.
I considered it my mission to feel complete, even though my hand was broken. I would manage to feel whole and at peace with myself.
Truth be told, this shift in perspective during the actual match was easier imagined than done.
I have always gauged my performance with how connected to a meditative state I feel during a match. In my last tournament, although I won, it was more challenging to engage in that place of stillness, because my ego, my sense of self consciousness, was drawn towards my hand. During my first match, I was more focused on keeping that hand safe by evading my opponent’s movement before it turned into a more overt assault.
I am so appreciative to my grandfather in that he helped me in my life to feel unity in mind and body by connecting to a purpose.
When this happens, life itself becomes a mission and challenges just become bumps along the way.
By transcending the result, or what can be seen or touched, we do not allow defeat, and can hold something more tightly in the heart.
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Assistant Editor: Guenevere Neufeld/Editor: Rachel Nussbaum
Photo: Nicola / Flickr