Come on up to the house
My grandfather passed early Saturday morning, and thinking of the ordeal he was about to experience with liver cancer and his already weak state, it might have been for the better at least. I'm obviously sad, but last night the whole family went out for dinner at the Athens Restaurant, some leftover from an era when the nicest restaurants in town where brightly lit with tacky decor and banquet-style chairs. Apparently it was one of Nana and Grampa's favorite places "back in the day." It was good to be with everyone, joking and remembering how much Grampa always loved times out like with everyone. All the grandkids will also be the pallbearers at the funeral. It seems fitting that all of us who Grampa always helped out so much would help him out in his last journey, so to speak. Or maybe I'm just a sucker for metaphors and romance like that. This loss is especially hard to deal with since I know longer really believe in the traditional Judeo-Christian understanding of an afterlife. I'm not sure where I stand on the matter at all really, and I haven't decided for myself whether I believe that death is the end and that's it yet, so it's really tough for me to know how to deal with right now. Anyway, I'm going to be saying a few words either during the private time for the family during the wake or at the formal funeral. I'm not sure which, but my aunt is real keen on orchestrating things so they are perfect, so I'm sure she'll let me know. I just thought I'd put those words up here.
There are so many words that could describe Grampa””kind, humorous, considerate, gentle, patient, and on and on””but there is one word that seems to sum Grampa up when other words fall short. Love.
Grampa never had anything bad to say about anyone or anything. He was always supportive of everything any of us chose to do and was always more concerned about everyone else's well-being and interests than his own. You could hear it in his voice, see it in the gentle way he held Josie, Auntie Cal's cat, and feel it, though he had grown frail, in his embrace””Grampa was a man filled with love.
As one of the younger grandchildren, I do not share many of the same experiences with Grampa that my older cousins do. Grampa never taught me to water-ski on Sebbins Pond””in fact by the time I was old enough to have learned I was living in the house Grampa had largely built there. Instead, Grampa gave me some tips on golf at Del Tura. I have fond memories of time spent with Grampa, but different ones from my older cousins. What I share about Grampa with them, though””and with all our family””is the immeasurable love Grampa had for each and every one us individually and collectively.
When I was younger, Grampa was always ready to help any of us out””whether it was learning to water-ski on Sebbins Pond, swim at the Oak Brook pool or golf at Del Tura. When they were in New Hampshire, he and Nana were always taking Thomas and I out to see movies, go to the state fairs or just to look through the Richard Scarry books in the basement of the house they rented. I remember one trip in particular when Nana and Grampa took us to a fair, then on the way back stopped at a yard sale to buy us a set of toys. Grampa's love then was an active one, which he showed through the time spent with us.
While in Florida, Grampa, along with Nana, spent countless hours listening to the intricate details of my childhood life on the phone. Seven-year-olds don't usually have the most fascinating stories to tell, but Grampa was always sincerely interested. By the time Nana and Grampa moved back to New Hampshire full-time, Grampa was too weak to swim or golf with us. Instead of going to the fair, we'd all go out for dinner. He never complained about his health, though. Instead he'd talk with us, just as he had on the phone from Florida, about what was going on in our lives and let us know how proud he was of everything we did, just as he had the first time we got up on water-skies, swam on our own or made it on to the green in golf. Grampa's body may have begun to fail him by then, but his love was as strong as ever.
On Friday, even as he lay dying in his hospital bed, he didn't complain about his own discomfort, but gladly greeted each of us and asked us how we were doing. Despite his obvious pain and confusion, he told Dad and I that he wanted to buy a more comfortable chair for Nana to sit in at the hospital. That kind of selfless love is more than unusual; it is so rare, so undying that it transcends human understanding. There is no way to put that sort of love into words. In my search to find an apt description of the love that Grampa personified, the closest I could find were the words of Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians, which I'd like to read. As I do, I think you'll find, as I did, that there is not one attribute mentioned which Grampa did not possess, nor any person who more perfectly fits the description.Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, it is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never fails.
If that is the definition of love, then I can think of no one who better loved than Grampa.