In this week's loss(t) convos interview, we hear from Elliott Slinn, a 33 year old writer and musician who shares his experience of grief following the death of his Grandma, lovingly named Baba, and how the loss has impacted him.
What is the most significant loss and grief you've endured and why?
The loss of my Baba hit me hard. Even today, she’s been gone almost 2 years, but I still feel like I’ll see her walking up on the porch for Christmas, and other family gatherings. She was my mom's mom; and I’ve always called her Baba; a very special person.
She was a light. She raised 9 children, us grand-babies, as well as the kids at her daycare. She embodied joy and encouragement. She was the rock of our family (if you’ve seen Soul Food, she was our Big Mama). She held our family together, through good and bad. When my uncles had cancer, and passed away, she was strong for all of us.
She was also an incredible story teller, with an infectious laugh. When Baba laughed, you couldn’t help but follower her into joy. She helped raised me (and my sister,) when I was younger and my mom was at work; those are some of my fondest memories with her. She possessed a magic, that made each of us feel like we were her “special one,” and I was her “Baby Boy.” We did arts at her kitchen table, or went to the park and talked. The loss comes in not being able to show her the man I am today. To share new stories, and moments. To feel her kiss my cheek.
What did you learn from the loss and the grief?
I learned the value of love -- love without expectation or demand. She possessed a compassion and empathy for others that exuded from the inside-out. It wasn’t a blanket kindness she practiced, it was tailored to the individual. She knew how to connect with people and fill them up, by pouring from herself. She always gave from the little she had, and not for recognition or reward, but because it was who she was. Through her example I learned the value of kindness, and grace. I learned to give of myself. To forgive, so I can be forgiven. To trust in God, even on the darkest days – and I learned to never lose my smile; no matter what.
Let others cheer the winning man, There’s one I hold worth while;
‘Tis he who does the best he can,
Then loses with a smile.
Beaten he is, but not to stay Down with the rank and file;
That man will win some other day,
Who loses with a smile.
(^ one of her favourite poems).
What is your advice to others who are suffering from similar loss and grief?
My advice would be to remember them. Remember how they touched your life. Remember how they made you laugh. Remember the teachings, and investment in you. Remember how they made you feel. Remember that you carry them with you in your spirit. And even though you cry for what you’ve lost, love those tears as gifts of memory for all that you’ve gained by knowing them.
My Baba always supported me, and my dream to sing; my dream to become myself. She believed in me before I did, and I wish I could have sang and played music for her while she was alive. But there’s times now, when I’m on stage, and I feel like I’m singing only to her; like she can hear me. I can see her smile, and hear her voice. I can feel her encouragement when I’m nervous, and know she’s looking down on me.
Her memory inspires me to be the man she saw I could be, and believed I could become. I want to make her proud, and carry forward her flag of compassion.
I miss her all the time, but I know she’s walking beside me – because of her, I am who I am today.- -
Much love to Elliott for sharing his story (and to Baba for being such a kickass woman!) xo R
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