He wasn't a man with much of an appetite for attention (he didn't want a wake or a full funeral service), so that is why I call this an "Unrequested Eulogy".
Some of who read this will be friends that knew him, more still will be family. Please know that I write this to share memories of him, to remember him, and not to publicize his passing.
Everyone copes with loss differently, and stories are what I do, so I would like to share two stories that best explain what he meant to me, what he taught me about life, and why he will be missed.
To try to summarize a life that eclipses my own would be impossible, so I will leave the larger job of memorializing his life to those in my family better equipped to do so.
The two personal experiences with him that I am sharing are short in length but will shape my life, and if I have my way, the life of my son moving forward.
A little over a year ago I went through probably the hardest time of my life. I like to think that I coped with it okay, but when I ran into my grandfather in front of my father's garage a month or so after the information became public, he had no way of knowing that.
He knew in a general sense what had been decided, and the look in his eye told me that he was unsure as to how well I was dealing with it.
He asked me how I was doing, as at that time we weren't an everyday part of each other's lives.
I told him that I was alright, that things happen for reasons that don't always make sense until you look back on them later.
His response was classic Gramp, "Gory, that's too bad." And as he said it he shook his head.
What he did next is what I will always remember. He stood there to see if I had anything else I wanted to say. He was not a man comfortable with shows of emotion, and I can't recall a single conversation with him regarding feelings or thoughts on life in general, but he was willing to endure stepping out of his comfort zone to make sure that if I needed someone to talk to that he gave me the opportunity.
Only after I shrugged and told him again that I was okay did we both move on in our opposite directions.
In today's age we are bombarded with emotions- false, fabricated, occasionally genuine. The generation he came from was largely devoid of all that, yet he did the right thing and was there for me if I needed him, without having to come right out and say it.
He was not a man of many words and did not feel there was a point to excessive talking, but the few words he used carried weight and were always kind and/or deferential of himself.
That is the largest lesson I learned from him. The right thing isn't always easy, but you do it because it is right.
He was perhaps the only person I have known personally that no one ever really had a bad thing to say about, he treated everyone well and everyone seemed to like him.
He never wanted to "be a bother" to anyone, and even in the last few months of his life was perpetually more concerned with how everyone else was doing than his own troubles.
Which brings me to the second story I would like to share. The day after he received the news that his condition was terminal, I went to see him in the hospital.
My father ( his son ) had gone in for a somewhat minor knee surgery earlier that day, and I wanted to make sure that someone made it in to visit as I doubted that my father would feel up to walking in. I also wanted to see him and cheer him up a little if he seemed like he needed it.
I really didn't know what to expect, but as he had shown me before, the people you love in your life deserve to be treated the right way. If the visit was to be uncomfortable, I loved and respected him enough to endure it and lend whatever support I could, knowing that it had to be harder for him than it ever would be for me.
The symmetry of receiving a chance to repay the kindness that he had shown me was something I am just now, as I write this, recognizing. His silent gesture that previous day touched me so deeply that unlike many lessons, it took root immediately.
When I arrived he said hello and almost instantly after asked how my father was doing. I was a little surprised, but looking back on it I shouldn't have been.
Gramp was always more concerned about everyone else, wanting to make sure that everyone else was doing well.
I had spoken with my father through texts earlier in the day, and I shared a joke he had told me when I asked him how the surgery went.
He had told me that they couldn't save the knee and decided to attach his knees to his ankles like Cotton in "King of the Hill".
That made him laugh.
Then he told me that he didn't want anyone to feel sorry for him, that he had lived a long, good life and had no regrets.
I told him that I wouldn't do that to him, that he didn't have to worry about me pitying him, I loved him more than that.
I asked how the food was, but he hadn't been eating too much. I didn't need him to tell me this, as I could tell by the unopened Ensure bottle and barely touched cup of applesauce, but it was better to give him a chance to tell it.
He said that they were moving him over to a hospice facility the following day so that there could be people to watch over him and so that he would be closer to the hospital, again so that when he needed care it wouldn't inconvenience anyone in the family.
I have a friend that sometimes works in that building, so I made a joke that I would ask her to keep an eye on him and make sure that none of the ladies in the home cornered him.
He laughed and said that if they did he would probably just pass out, as much strength as he had left, and we both laughed.
He taught me a lot about how to be a better man without ever really teaching.
That is what I will remember most about him, to be a good person and treat people with respect. Also, not everything needs to be said out loud, part of respecting people is to respect their intelligence and ability to figure things out for themselves, in their own way and time.
I think that the best memorial I could offer to him would be to take the best of his principles and try to incorporate them into my life. Perhaps if more of us could be a little more like my grandfather there would be less problems in the world. So that is my goal, to keep his memory alive by trying to live my life with more of the silent respect that he has.
Writing this has begun to put things into perspective for me, and I feel the grieving process is mostly about gaining perspective, so now I am sending it off into the "cloud", in the hopes that some version of it reaches the cloud that he has his machine shop setup on now.
You will be missed Gramp, but more importantly, you will be remembered.
I am so sorry for your loss. Your eulogy eloquently showed the mutual love and respect you and your Grandfather shared. I am quite sure this message has permeated the "cloud" and he is possibly hiding it from his old and new friends, since he seemed to be (as you say) rather adverse to attention.
I'm sorry for your loss, Chris. By sharing your Grandfather's story here more people have a chance to learn from his example. I'm certainly going to try to be one of them. Thank you and take care.ReplyDelete
Thanks Erin, thanks Frank. To reuse the old phrase, "He's in a better place now". I'm glad that what I wrote registered with you, as i think that the best way to remember who we have lost is to carry their lessons with us. Thank you both for reading, i promise the next post will be more upbeat, as i have an announcement coming soon ;-)ReplyDelete