What I learned from grandma

As much as people optimistically frame funerals as “celebrations” of life, they are never easy to attend. That said, my wife, Jammie, and I are just returning from a funeral in the Philippines and I can quite honestly say that despite my initial trepidation about parts of the trip, I am really glad I went. At the funeral we met the expected group of mourners – family, friends, church and community members. Grandma was 99 when she passed. She had seen both World Wars, she had raised a flock of people, she was a quiet, unassuming giver. There was much to be said.

I sat back and listened to people’s stories: everyone had their own unique way of remembering and processing their grief. But what came out very clearly was that this 99 year-old had lived purposefully. She was passionate about child rearing and had left her town in the Philippines to raise her grandchildren (Jammie included) in the US. By all accounts she did a wonderful job. Her grandchildren took turns telling stories about their crazy pranks and the way their patient grandma took care of them through it all. I expected these stories, but not necessarily the next twist:

When her American grandchildren were old enough for school, grandma did not let the glitter of America keep her there. Instead she went back to her little provincial town near Manila where she lived the rest of her days close to her extended family.

Why did grandma leave the US? Millions of her fellow citizens spend their life savings and work every connection to get to the US. Grandma left it all behind because she stayed true to her guiding principles and her calling. She left the US and came home to the Philippines where she continued to raise her family’s children. She never lost sight of what she felt was her role in life.

As sad as it is to remember her passing as I type these words on our flight back to California, I can’t help but be inspired by this principled woman. Thank you for teaching us how to live, grandma.



Bjorn Karlman

5 thoughts on “What I learned from grandma”

  1. Sorry to hear of your loss Bjorn. Inspiring that grandma left America to follow her calling. We all don’t have to be grandma’s or old to do the same:) What better inspiration than her for the grandkids and everyone she touched?

    1. Thanks a lot Vishnu. I am always fascinated by people who follow callings no matter what. The ultimate tragedy has to be taking the path of least resistance when your calling would provide a much more fulfilling experience. The more I hear about your day job, the more I am intrigued.

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