We celebrated my grandpa’s life this weekend. He died a few weeks ago — a day short of 90 years old. The party was perfect. It was celebratory, reminiscent, and full of gratitude. I saw family I hadn’t seen in over a decade. I met one of my nieces for the first time. I left the party with a full heart. We lost a member of the family but we gained a memory that would make grandpa chuckle with glee.
I wish I could say I was close to my grandpa, but that would not be true. There’s a story there, but it’s far too personal and certainly not my own story to tell. So our relationship always played out from a distance. We saw him on holidays, he sent me birthday cards when I was young, and that was the extent of it. Sometimes, that’s just how it goes. I only have one regret… he never met my youngest son. We had plans to visit him this summer, but we scheduled it a week too late.
I look back on my memories of him and I don’t have very many. I remember when he was trying the Atkins diet and boisterously proclaimed he could eat steak and bacon and cover everything with butter. I remember thinking how disgusting that sounded and wondering if he had lost his mind. Old people are weird, I thought.
I remember playing with my cousin on the golf course outside his home one Christmas. My cousin decided to walk on a frozen pond and the ice broke, submerging him before my eyes… to my terror. He got out and was fine, but I still shudder at the memory. I remember being angry it was at grandpa’s house like he was somehow at fault for living there, putting us in that situation, and being oblivious to the peril. It’s absurd, of course, but I was just a child.
He was the last of my grandparents. Now they are all just memories and feelings and spirits in my life. It saddens me that my mom and dads’ parents are now gone, and it terrifies me to think that my parents will one day follow suit. I’m not ready for that. And I promise you in 20 years I still won’t be ready for that.
Goodbyes are hard, even the complicated ones. I’m grateful for him, and I’m beyond grateful for the family he created with my dear grandmother. We have an extended family that puts joy in my heart. Aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, and nephews that fill my soul and I cherish. My kids will never remember or know my grandpa, but they have an extended family that loves them beyond measure. And that is something to celebrate!
So we celebrated. We prayed, we laughed, we reminisced. We hugged, we shared pictures and we gave thanks. Thank you, grandpa. You weren’t perfect but you were kind. You built a family I feel blessed to call my own. I love you and I will remember our time with gratitude.