Sunday, July 12, 2009
Saying Goodbye to Grandpa - July 12, 2009
This past weekend we said goodbye to my grandpa - my father's father. He was 96 years old. He was a hell of a man, and hearing the stories of the lives he touched was inspiring. Yesterday there was a memorial service for him in an old church right up the road from my grandparents' home. The church itself was a plain building - just one room with several rows of pews, many windows, and a raised area in the front with chairs and an altar. It didn't seem like much to me, but apparently there is a considerable amount of history there for my dad and his family, and that made it kind of neat to be there for me. It was blazing hot, and the building was not air conditioned, so we were all sweating like sinners in church, or however the saying goes. I was moved by the stories that were told by my family at the service, but any emotions that I feel at events such as these are always overshadowed by the bloviating of the priests/pastors/reverends/whatever. The whole "this day is all about god and not about the person who died, so think about jeebus" shtick always makes my blood boil. It's the same thing at weddings and funerals that I've attended throughout the years. You'd think I'd just be able to ignore it, but it seems so disingenuous every single time that it just gets my heckles up. This afternoon, however, I was able to feel pure emotions, not tainted by such things. At the very last minute, as we were heading out the door for the 3.5 hour drive home, my dad and his two sisters decided to spread the ashes of my grandfather in my grandma's garden, next to Grandpa's favorite dog that he buried there years ago. At first, each of his three children and his widow took a handful of ashes and began to sprinkle them. Then a few more of us came in and took a handful to spread. My little 4 year old cousin took a handful that apparently had some sort of token with information to identify the ashes as my grandfather's if something happened. My grandmother took it out of my cousin's hand, and at first, I thought it was a bone chip or something like that. As my grandma spread the last of the ashes, she began to cry. She cried for the first time since Grandpa died. Her daughters joined her, and my dad looked on until Grandma was ready to move out of the garden. Dad took her arm and led her to the patio to sit in the shade, as she had done every summer with Grandpa for the past 67 years. Something that, for the first time, she would do alone. I cannot even begin to imagine how that feels. I cannot begin to understand the sense of loss and sorrow that she must feel. That home that he built with his own two hands is filled with memories of him. I don't know if that will ultimately be a good or a bad thing for Grandma, but she has made the choice to continue to live there. I hope she has peace. She saw Grandpa live a good life - he served in World War II, was the father of three wonderful and unique children, lived to see some of his great grandchildren (though unfortunately not from me), saw his children marry wonderful spouses who love them so much, built and ran a hardware store, built his own home, and just enjoyed the simple things of his life. His life was rich and full, much like his personality. He was such a sweet and hard-working man. This world is richer for having had him in it. We miss you already Grandpa. Goodbye.