“C’est un mal pour un bien.”
One of the most optimistic French phrases I’ve learned. It’s a blessing in disguise. When facing loss, any kind of loss, it feels nearly impossible to find the positive. How on earth could losing something or someone you love be a good thing? Your entire world feels like it’s been turned upside down. But the truth is, there is always a blessing in disguise…and once you find it, it’s incredible how quickly your empty glass becomes half full.
On Mother’s Day, I said goodbye to my grandmother, Ligaya. She was more than just a grandmother in the traditional sense. She raised me alongside my mother, drank champagne with me at bars, knew how to dougie and had the biggest heart you’ve ever encountered. In fact, the doctors said her heart was twice the size of the average heart. But if you knew her, you already knew that. Ligaya means joy in Tagalog, and joy is exactly what she gave everyone around her. Compassion was her guiding principle. She taught me that true strength came from the heart and that compassion didn’t make a person weak, it made a community stronger. Given that her heart was twice the size of what it should be, it seems clear to me that she practiced what she preached.
In losing her, I’ve gained a valuable lesson: it is immeasurably important to walk the walk. Or at least to do your damn best. Often times, if we take a second to reflect, we can see that our actions do not always match our principles. I’ve always thought of myself as a compassionate person, but in her passing, I constantly wonder if I am actually walking the walk. If I could do more. Give more. Listen more. The answer is always yes. We can’t go back in time to right past wrongs, but we can right them by moving forward with bigger, more understanding hearts. We can learn from the times we didn’t put ourselves in someone else’s shoes and the times we could’ve been a little gentler.
Compassion does not mean self-sacrifice and it does not mean putting your own needs on the back burner. Compassion is understanding that everyone is fighting their own fight and that a little empathy goes a long way. My grandmother once invited a homeless man to live in our kitchen while he found work, helped an elderly couple get back on their feet after life had been hard on them, and always took the sides of my boyfriends when I was PMSing. That woman walked the fucking walk.
Losing my grandmother, physically, has made me more conscientious about how I can help her live on. As the sadness of loss fades, the excitement of awareness and opportunity fills my cup. Compassion is the secret ingredient to a happy life. I strive to use it liberally.