My upline coach and Beachbody mentor Laurel has been after me since I joined the team to really get down to the true reason for why fitness and nutrition are so important to me. She keeps pushing me to step outside of my comfort zone and show who I truly am, so I’m going to do my best.
Not every fitness story involves the loss of weight – Some involve the loss of a loved one.
It’s March 25th, and this is normally a time of year when I am somber, miserable, weepy, and heartbroken. The reason why is because on March 29, 1991, my world was forever turned upside down when my mom’s mom, my beloved grandma, a woman who sat at the center of my 5 ½ year old universe, died. She contracted pneumonia and fluid filled her lungs. She left behind seven children and one grandchild. She was 57 years old. She was morbidly obese.
Try as I might, I cannot ever let go of the pain I connect to this time of year. We lost her over 20 years ago, but in many ways, it feels as if it was only yesterday. Perhaps that’s because I had to live with the aftermath of her passing. In the wake of her death, my grandfather, her widower, slipped into a depression. My mother, her only daughter, battled her own grief and frustration as she tried to find a way to still be a mom, wife, sister, and daughter to her remaining family members while also losing her best friend. There aren’t many women on my mom’s side of the family, so losing our matriarch was harrowing. I became forever scarred at a young age from her passing. It was a lot for my 5 ½ year old soul to carry.
It still is.
I celebrate her life as much as I can. There are photos of she and my grandfather on their wedding day hanging in my living room, and each September my mother and I commemorate her birthday together. However, I also carry an animosity, not towards her necessarily, but definitely towards her mindset. My grandmother made it her life to take care of others. She was an excellent mother to all eight of her kids. I don’t know how she did it, because I have my hands full with just my own daughter. She was a God-fearing woman who sang and clapped and lifted her hands in praise at church each Sunday while teaching lessons of virtue as written straight from the Bible. She was loving and caring. I still long for her soft, warm hugs on days when life overwhelms me. But she never thought to turn inward and do a few favors for herself.
I used to think, “If only she had gotten a gastric bypass…” or “If only we could’ve gotten her a nutritionist.” “If only she could have survived, we could have made things better after she came home from the hospital,” and “If only we could have made things different.” Now that I am a fitness coach, I think, “If only she could see me now…”
The truth is, I do this because I know what kind of damage poor health and obesity can cause. These are avoidable conditions, and I’ve watched them both rip my family apart. I love my grandmother very much (So much. SO much.) but I also think it’s unfair that she left us all to mourn her when we were most vulnerable. It’s selfish of me to say that, but in many ways, it was selfish of her to not take better care of herself for the sake of her family. Dying at the age of 57 is not a normal occurrence. It is not natural. That only happens when you have a serious health condition that debilitates you. A normal lifespan is much longer than 57 years…
So, as I settle into my official new title as coach, I am channeling my passion to see people turn off the path of poor choices for their health and jump onto the path of good nutrition and exercise. I do not want to build an army of terminators. I’m not looking to make anyone into a bikini model or iron man. However, if choking down some healthy greens and sweating it out three times a week keeps a middle aged man alive long enough to see his grandkids graduate from high school, then I’m ecstatic to have done my job. I will always love and miss my grandmother – to the point that it hurts me – but I am working to turn her painful death into a call to action for me and everyone else I meet.