I had left off in the last post at the time that we were called off to my grandfather’s house, to find he had passed at some point after going to bed. Since it was considered “natural causes”, there wasn’t an autopsy. Considering the surgery, we’re assuming that it was a blood clot from the surgery, and considering his health history, it’s not likely he would have survived one anyway.
This started a very hectic week of phone calls, planning, talking, so much so that the week passed in what felt like no real time at all, leaving us weary, exhausted and wondering if it even happened in the first place.
Despite the sadness of what had happened, and what then had to do, we managed to spend much of the week in fond rememberance of my grandfather. As the obituary states, but couldn’t fully encompass, was the intricate and immense depth of the person he was, and will continue to be in our hearts and memories.
Almost immediately we started getting flowers and phone calls from many people, among the phone calls we were also making to family and friends, as well as many other people that were in his life and that he’d wanted contacted upon his passing.
Having known him my entire life, it was still just utterly surprising and completely heartwarming to see the reach this man had had in his life. The way he treated us was really the way he treated everyone he met, bringing them into the warmth of his social embrace. He made everyone he met a friend, and a part of his family.
To hear over and over again the same sentiment, and the thanks and love that these people had for my grandfather was a truly incredible thing to experience, one that I know would have left him smiling broadly and making jokes, and passing off in his odd, but heartfelt humility. He never seemed to really fully see the scope of his own touch around him, seeing it as the only way to go through his life, always giving, always encouraging, making people feel like the most special person in the world when he spoke to them.
Tears and laughter repeated over the coming days as we did all that we needed to do to prepare for the viewing and the funeral. Collecting tidbits that we’d hope would rightly represent parts of him that people would remember and cherish. The films from his childhood, pictures over the many years, the deeds and dedication he had to country and family, his love for arts of all kinds.
Always quick witted and never far from a story to bring a smile to someone’s face, he was. Always trying to find enjoyment out of any situation. And so we did as well, to honor him and his memory.
Yes, he had been married before he married my grandmother, and for the first time (or in some cases, the first time in about 21 years) I had the chance to meet and speak with his children from that first marriage, meet their spouses, their children, family I hadn’t really known existed. The time I had met any of them, I was far too young to know the meaning of who they were in relation to me and my family, too young to remember as the years went by.
Perhaps this unfortunate but inevitable conclusion to a life can be that door opening onto something new, something inclusive, a joining of people who share a great man’s blood.
I’ve certainly seen a lot of death in my short 28 years. More than many people will ever experience in their entire lives. I do not begrudge them that, however. Yet, even so…it didn’t prepare me as an adult to deal so first-hand with this sad experience. It was one of, if not the, hardest things I have ever had to do, but I don’t expect it will end up being the hardest in the end. In some way, I do hope that it helps me feel at least in some way prepared for the ones I will bear witness to in the future, and that I will be able to handle them with pride, grace, and love.
I know this is a bit all over the place, but at times like these, the mind will do what it wants more often than not, and this is how my thoughts are coming out, and therefore coming to you.
I wrote my very first Obituary. I do not think it will be the last one I will write, but I do hope that I do not have to write another for a very long time. I chose very quickly to offer to write it. It felt right to do so. I also chose very quickly and quite adamantly to offer to be a pallbearer. It also felt right. I do not think I could have gotten through the last week without having done those things. I believe my heart is just a tiny bit lighter for having had the honor and the permission to do so.
My heart hurts, and I am sure it will for a long time to come. But I will always try to smile through that pain, because I know he would not want me to remember him in sadness, but in gladness.
I love you, Grampa.