I was ten at the time. My grandmother (Nanny) on my father’s side was dying of cancer. She was an amazing lady, an accomplished concert pianist and the centre of any party with a larger than life personality. Their house (where my grandfather still lives) was always filled with music and laughter. Then, one day, it suddenly fell quiet.
Nanny had always lived such a carefree life, that to me, a slightly shy 10-year-old who hadn’t yet discovered his sporty side, she was untouchable. She would always be in my life, or so I thought. She was everything that I wanted to be (and still do), but at the time I didn’t quite understand it like that. I just knew that I loved her. A lot.
She never gave me any advice until that day. She knew that her example was enough – I observed her, I absorbed every lesson, every reaction, every emotion. She knew that I felt close to her, but I don’t think that she ever wanted to patronize me with advice. She knew that I’d work it all out for myself in the end.
So, lying in her bed at home that day, her chapped lips barely able to speak, she beckoned me close to her and whispered to me so that no one else could hear….
“Do your best and beat the rest”
I knew that she had put her heart and soul into those few words. She looked at me with loving eyes and saw a naive young boy that she hoped would grow up into a strong man. A man that she would never see. These seven words were her last gift to me, and they are words that I have lived with me forever.
I have often wondered why she said them.
I actually think that she was scared. In those last few days, she realized what a selfish and unforgiving world we live in and maybe wondered about how her two grandsons would cope. I think that she wanted to give me something to hold onto in the hard times and some extra steel when it was needed.
If you are lucky enough to have something to live for, something to fight for, then this is pretty damn good advice. During the hardest times of my life, when I have had difficult decisions to make, or when I simply didn’t know where to turn…. I remember her words.
I have pushed myself; I have tried to be the best version of me that I can be, and yes, sometimes I have battled my internal and external demons. No amount of sugar-coated articles can get around the fact that life is a competition – with yourself and with others. There are many ways to run the race, but it is still a race.
I know that Nanny is looking down on me right now, and I do my best to make her proud every day. There will never be a more fitting motto for my life.
Some might question the “beat the rest” bit, but for me, that is the well-meaning advice of someone who loved me. Thinking about it a little more, it could be seen to mean that as long as you concentrate on doing your best, then you don’t need to worry about what other people are up to. Alternatively, could “the rest” mean your own insecurities and inner demons? That would make sense too…..
Either way, I have tried to follow her advice ever since.
Love you Nanny.
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