Holding a Grudge Might be the Last Thing you Do

Personal Narrative

Kevin Doyle
3 min readNov 12, 2020

My aunt Irene is smiling in every photograph.

It’s not one of those “say cheese” smiles — it’s a real one with beaming eyes and a grin that stretches across her face.

Whenever I saw her she expected a kiss on the cheek and if I tried to pull away she would grab my face and kiss me anyway. Her long brown hair would whip me in the face. She would then say, “I hope you don’t treat your girlfriend like that!”

We taunted each other constantly out of love.

Irene loved hosting. Holidays were always at her house and on Christmas we ended the night sitting by the fireplace. She was always laughing and surrounded by her family and friends because it was where she was most happiest.

Aside from all her jokes, my aunt was also one of the most compassionate people I knew. She dropped everything if one of her kids, relatives or friends were in trouble. When I was dealing with my parents’ divorce she was there just to listen and offer advice.

It’s been a little over a year since Irene tragically passed away and during this time I constantly think about her. My aunt was a nurse and she would have been on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. I know she would be happily lending her hand and working exhausting hours if it meant she would see her patients return home healthy.

Two years before her death, my father and my uncle got into an argument because it was suspected my uncle was stealing money from my grandmother. Irene was thrust into the middle of both sides and tried everything to resolve this battle. She cherished family more than anything.

Eventually, Irene was forced into choosing her husband’s side which meant cutting ties with my father. Her famous smile seemed to fade and her eyes grew dimmer over the next few years.

I watched from the sidelines as a small disagreement turned into a long and uncertain silence. Irene sent a few texts checking up on me and I answered dryly, frustrated with a grudge that had torn our family apart.

A grudge. A simple word yet so devastating in some cases. I believe in letting go of grudges and coming to a compromise. Life is too short to waste time focusing your energy and attention on a grudge.

Ending the grudge might not have prevented her passing but it would have allowed me to say “I love you” or hear her laugh one last time.

Her death hit hard — harder than her long brown hair hitting me in the face. Memories of us together on holidays, laughing on the beach and our trip to Ireland flooded back. The two years that I lost contact with her could have been spent making new memories. All because of a grudge.

A few months passed and I realized I needed something to honor Irene. I sat down with the tattoo artist and after a long and meaningful discussion we collectively designed a piece of artwork dedicated to a truly amazing person in my life.

My left leg is now marked with a black and gray celtic cross with a picture from Ireland in the center. This was a memorable trip for my aunt and I because my entire family came and Irene was happiest with everyone together.

Some people scoffed at my tattoo and said I was “ruining” my body. I shrug because I know it represents something so much more than that. I believe in honoring someone that taught me about the importance of family and putting others before myself.

Sometimes I forget my tattoo is even there until I walk past a window or mirror and notice it in a reflection. And I smile to myself.