3 Bits of Advice from Grandma

Granddad and Grandma Sampson

Dear Daughters,

Sixteen years ago this week, my mother died from ovarian cancer. She was 59.

All week, I’ve been thinking about what she would say to you now, if she could stop by for dinner some night. She would tell you how proud she was, for sure. She would gush about how smart and creative and beautiful each of you is. And she would smother you with hugs and pepper you with questions about school, music, soccer, and even boys.

Then, if we asked, she might give you these three bits of advice, which she tried to instill in me.

1. Don’t be afraid to try

Fear can be healthy–when it keeps us from doing stupid, dangerous things. But it can also get in the way–when it makes us worry what people will think or avoid potential embarrassment at any cost.

In the end, you really don’t need to worry what people will think: the right people will judge you based on who you are, not on how good you are at this or that. And everyone else can buzz off: who cares what they think anyway?

Also, you won’t regret the things you try and fail at. Those failures will become laughable learning experiences. You’ll regret the things you wanted to try but didn’t.

So if you want to do something, ask yourself if it’s really dangerous. If it isn’t, then don’t let fear stop you. Get over yourself and try. You have nothing to lose that’s worth keeping.

2. Learn to be still

Trying new things is important, but so is sitting still–because the most important truths in life are rarely shouted. More often they bubble up out of silence and stir your soul before they reach your mind.

So stand beside the ocean and wonder. Kneel down in the cathedral and pray. Breathe in the pine-scented air of the forest and pause to taste it. Lie on your back and stare up at the slow-turning stars.

Know that no matter how fast the world wants to turn, sometimes the only answer is to be still and silent enough to hear forever whisper. And to listen when it does.

3. Bet on love

There will likely be times in your life when disease and death and darkness surround you. And it will be tempting then to scream and curse and rage.

Go right ahead and do that when you need to. Scream. Curse. Rage. It’s healthy to get it out.

But remember that there’s always more to it than that. There’s always a bigger picture. Life goes on. The light returns. And love wins. Every time.

This is not merely an article of faith; it is the basis of faith. In the great battle between light and darkness, between love and death, between good and evil, the good prevails. Love prevails, as long as you let it.

So if you’re ever lost or afraid or overwhelmed, go where love leads you. That’s the way.

And if you ever need a hand, ask your father. He really is happy to help.

6 thoughts on “3 Bits of Advice from Grandma

  1. Frances Meneely

    This is powerful. A very good insight to life. Jack and I had many, many great memories with Bob and Carol. We miss Carol so much. She left us much too soon! You have one of the best dads in the world. We appreciate his kindness and integrity so much. We could not ask for a greater friend. Your girls are precious. Bob shows us the latest photos when we visit. This is a lovely blog.. Frances Meneely


  2. Bea Kirby

    Steve, I have been so moved by memories of the friendship I shared with Carol, your
    dear mother and my dear friend, I am finding it difficult to
    translate my thoughts into words.
    She was truly “one of a kind.” She was bright, thoughtful, talented, caring, – there are not adjectives enough to describe the friend that I knew except perhaps to say that she was a friend
    in the best sense of that word. I have missed our “small talk” sessions, but even more those times when we shared deeper concerns.
    As I am sure you know, family was SO important to her and she was rightfully proud of each
    of you – including your father.

    I have missed her so much!

    Bea (Kirby)


  3. Beverly Fleming

    Steve, I cannot really respond to your very elegant words. My heart is full! There is nothing I could add about your wonderful mom, but I really want to say how proud we all were about the comments you and Tim made at her memorial service. My theology says that she heard them.


    1. Thanks so much! Those eulogy words were certainly some of the toughest I ever had to get out. I spoke them more for myself than for her, I think. More to put my own grief out in the ether, so to speak, where others could help shape and tame it. But I do hope she heard them–and whispered “amen” now and then.


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