A post by my wife, Amanda:
I sat down at my desk this morning with the cool fall breeze blowing through my window. Coffee at hand, sleeping baby on my lap, and my to-do list in front of me: clean the house, cut the fruit, order pictures, make the slideshow, respond to emails and phone calls, pick out an outfit for the funeral. And yet with all of the busyness of preparation, I couldn’t help but sit and reflect.
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking this past week as I watched Grandpa slowly decline and slip away under hospice care. “From dust you are and to dust you will return” keeps running through my head and I sing quietly to myself from time to time “from life’s first cry, to final breath… Jesus commands my destiny”.
What is life? I think back to nine months ago. I work on a labor and delivery unit and before my first pregnancy appointment, I scanned my abdomen with the ultrasound at work at just eight weeks pregnant and saw the tiniest flicker of a heartbeat. Joy, hope, potential – a life – all inside that tiny little heart. How does that tiny dancing glimmer of an infant become a life that pulses and moves and breathes for 78 years? And as quietly and indiscreetly as that heart began to beat, it ceases in much the same fashion.
As I left the hospital Wednesday night, I kissed my Grandpa on the forehead and I told him I loved him, and I came home to my baby girl and I kissed her on the forehead and I told her I loved her. A little over an hour later as I was holding my daughter in my arms, I received the text from my mom, telling me that Grandpa had died peacefully, held in the arms of his wife of fifty five years. “From dust you are and to dust you will return”.
I’m rifling through pictures now, collected by all of my family members. Photographs of my Grandpa as a child with his siblings, playing tennis in high school, walking my mother down the aisle, with my cousins and I at the lake. My Grandma kept a box by her bedside filled with certificates and accomplishments and notes from my Grandpa’s life. And I think about all of the people my Grandpa touched in his lifetime, of all of the memories made. When I get to the end of my life, what things will I have in my box? And I think about my daughter, Reagan, and I wonder what her life will become – who will she touch? What memories will she make? I imagine her in many of the same pictures – sports, friends, vacations.
And then I think about how life is so big and so much and so full. How can we possibly reflect and remember a life of seventy-eight years in a one-hour funeral service. What does it all mean? “From dust you are and to dust you will return”.
I want to remember this day when I feel like life is mundane and filled with the busyness of day-to-day tasks. When it’s four o’clock in the afternoon and all I’ve accomplished in the day is eating breakfast and feeding my child. I want to remember that each day is a part of a bigger life that I am creating – whether I live for twenty-four, seventy-eight or one hundred and three years. Each day is a blessing and a gift.
So what do I want to teach my daughter about her great-grandfather and the legacy he left behind through his life? I want her to hear about his kind, humble spirit. I want her to know how much and how well he loved others – especially those that not everyone loves. The last few years of his life after retirement, my Grandpa drove a Max bus all over town, and I think of all of the careers he had in his life, he enjoyed this one the most. He got to meet and interact with people that he wouldn’t have come in contact with otherwise. He built relationships with the people he drove week after week, and he loved them – all of them.
Grandpa never complained. As my Grandma touched on in her tribute letter, through eight years of cancer diagnoses, countless surgeries, feeding tubes, oxygen, heart monitors and test results, Grandpa never once complained or let on that he was in pain. And not only did he not complain, he was always concerned with how others were doing. That was his nature – selfless and caring.
And then I start to think about a marriage of fifty-five years. Fifty-five years! I look at my own marriage of only three, and cannot even begin to imagine what fifty-two more years might look like. A few months ago my Grandpa said to me “Man I married a great woman. She takes such good care of me”. My Grandparents were lovers, caretakers and best friends. This is what it looks like to love through good times and bad, sickness and health. What a perfect example of a love never failing.
So thank you, Grandpa, for the memories, for the many prayers you prayed for me, for the advice and wisdom poured out, for sleepovers, for the time spent pulling my cousins and I around the lake on the tubes over and over, and most of all for your example of a life lived in service to Jesus.
You are gone from this earth, but I am comforted by the knowledge that you are free of pain and rejoicing in the presence of the Father. When Reagan gets older, I will show her the pictures of the two of you together, and I will share these reflections with her. This is only my goodbye for now. I look forward to the day we are reunited together in Heaven.