The following story is one close to my heart and talks about a woman who I loved dearly. A story about love and courage and the incredible impact one person can have in your life. This is a story about my grandmother and how my ‘hello’ became her ‘goodbye’.
When I left Belgium in June 2015, I left my job, my family and my old self. Basically I left everything. That year I had been on the road, on adventures and hit the reset button I so needed.
When I flew back one year later, I never really returned.
I arrived by train in Brussels. The same place from which I left one year ago. My sister was waiting for me on the platform dressed in the Belgian colours. In fact, the whole railway station of Brussels South was coloured with Belgian flags. It must be soccer season!
For the past 24h I had been travelling from Bogota to Paris. It’s crazy to realize what can change in just a day. I flew half across the world. At least my body did.
Little did I know that my homecoming party would flip into a funeral party. Just a few hours after I had landed in Paris my grandmother passed away. I was at my friend’s house, preparing to celebrate my homecoming but as always, life had different plans for us.
There I was, in Brussels, sitting at a table with friends I hadn't seen in a year, sipping Mezcal. We did not talk about adventures, we spoke about her. We were not sad, we shared memories.
Since the day she passed away, every year I take myself out on a date on her birthday. I choose a restaurant that she would like, I eat and drink things she would like and I take a moment to cherish the memories of her.
This year I celebrated her in Malaga and chose to have dinner with an ocean view. The exact same view I have from the apartment I am writing this story from just a few months later. Goosebumpmoment.
My grandmother has played a massive role in my life. She was my homebase and for a few years I lived with her. I have learned a lot from her. She introduced me to Spanish cooking. She was an avid fashionista always following the latest trends. She was also the one who taught me how to bike (she was in heels!).
My grandmother did not have an easy life. But she worked hard, was independent and whatever happened, she never complained. She had a big heart and was such a giver. She wore pumps and lipstick all the time, way up into her 70s. The woman could have been a moviestar.
Being in the South reminds me so much of her. When I observe older women here, I can totally visualize her sitting amongst them, sharing beers and laughter. The way they dress and the way they look feels so familiar.
My grandmother was an introverted person, but she would always light-up a room. Her sense of fashion and, dare I say, addiction to shoes are the most memorable things about her. Besides her cooking off course.
I have the deepest respect for her as a person and I feel so lucky to have had her as my grandmother. She always had my back. She recognized my rebellious side and when I got a “no” from my parents or any one else, she would step in. She was my anchor!
When I came back from my backpacking trip, her funeral was my exit party. It was the last thing I did in Belgium before leaving, knowing I would not return. Her passing felt like her blessing to continue to follow my heart. Because travelling back did not feel right. I did not want to return to Belgium but somehow I told myself I had to.
A few weeks after the funeral, I moved to Prague, to continue my journey. I would live there for a year, quit my job again and follow my dream in becoming an online business owner that has a massive impact in the world.
This year, her birthday was one of the most memorable ones so far. This birthday was the day after I reunited with Jorge. My very first friend I met after I left Belgium for a trip that I could not share with her.
Even though she passed away, I always have her with me. That necklace was hers (see picture). It’s a horseshoe with the number 13 in it. That number became my magic number. It’s the number of the day she passed away (June 13th). The same day I returned to leave again. It’s the day I registered my business (February 13th). It’s a number that will always make me feel connected to her.
Life is full of surprises, but one thing I have learned is that we are always guided, protected and loved. All it takes is for you to open your heart, to embrace vulnerability and to lead with love.
Believe in magic and magic will find you. That is what grandmothers do for us … always!