“If you could have dinner with anyone in the world, who would you choose?” We discussed this question last night with friends, over dinner and couple of glasses of wine. Interestingly, none of us could think of a living person that goes above anyone else, but all of us wanted to get a chance to speak to a beloved person no longer with us in the known world. A dead person, that is.

Obviously the wish can’t be fulfilled but it brought out our need and desire to get clarity on the past. We are all expats, from different parts of the world with a range of stories in our bags. All of us with  “unfinished business”, or question marks, about the past. And a growing desire for answers.

For me, if I could choose only one I would go for my paternal grandmother. She died when I was just 7, and my only memories of her are of me being scared of her. She had a stroke and in her last years could only say a few troubled words, and the partial paralysis had also altered her personality, making her very anxious and inpatient. No wonder. For me the unfortunate part is that prior her stroke I was a baby, without the capacity of forming memories of her. Of us.

It’s been in the recent years that I’ve grown interested in our family’s history and have started asking my parents and few aunties for more information about their parents and their childhoods. I’ve never met either of my grandfathers and my maternal grandmother died in 1993, when I was about 12. She’s the only one I have genuine memories of and who with I have spent time with. I’ve known some basics of the family before but never really explored in detail what my ancestors were like. What kind of people they were.

What I’ve learned of my paternal grandmother, the one I remember being scared of, is that she was a very sweet woman, a kind and loving mother, a care-taker. Not a scary person with awkward movements and problems with speech. I’ve been going through some pictures where she looks a peaceful, sweet person. My mother also gave me a picture of me as a baby sitting on her lap. She’s looking at me with the most loving gaze imaginable, with a soft smile on her face. I look completely at ease, as you would when being smothered with love and kindness. That picture gets tears in my eyes every time I see it. My grandmother obviously loved me very much and I obviously felt that. That picture has altered my memories, has helped to replace the disturbing one with something more genuine and reserving.

That’s why I would choose to see my grandmother if I could bring just one person back, even for a moment. I would like to experience that moment one more time, now as a grown-up, and tell my grandmother how much I love and miss her and wish I could have had more of those moments with her. Make more memories.

We all have limited time with people we love. Those moments ought to be treasured, appreciated, and remembered.

I wish I could have known my grandfathers as well. I bet they could have told me insights of the family history and what life used to be like. With my maternal grandmother, the only one I got to spend some memorable quality time with, I would love to show her what’s become of me. I know she’d be proud of me. I don’t expect her understanding any of my choices but I have a feeling she would be proud of me living my life, trying to be a good, kind person and for working passionately for good causes. She never had a chance for higher education or making a career. She had to bring bread to the table, especially after at too young age becoming a widow with three daughters to take care of. I would love to tell her I admire her for that and would ask her what passions and dreams she might have had.

My parents now get to be the most awesome grandparents to my niece and nephew, who I quite envy for this privilege. The bond between them is amazing to observe and I’m grateful my niece and nephew have a chance to spend so much time with their grandparents. Nowadays it’s also much easier to record these moments for enjoyment at a later time, make memories ever-lasting.

Memories are extremely valuable. The human mind has an amazing capacity to store a vast amount of them and recall back the desired ones. Fortunately we are also living an era where memories can be easily saved and stored, outside the heart and mind as well. For me the picture of me and my grandmother is a treasure I am extremely grateful for. It’s a memory I didn’t know I had, a memory that means the world to me.




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Outi Annala

A sustainability-enthusiast with a master's degree in social sciences and experienced working for public and private sectors and for an international Non-profit organization. Writing about life and all that matters in living a life to the fullest. Passionate about engaging the private sector to the development work, promoting partnerships between companies and non-profit organizations and initiating discussion and debates. Excited about life and living it to the fullest.

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