Today is the twenty-fifth anniversary of my maternal grandfather's death. I was eight years old when he died. The thing I remember most about the day of his death is how surreal it was to see my mom and my aunt sitting on the couch crying. I don't think I had ever seen an adult cry before that, and I remember thinking it was fake, some kind of joke.
I remember that I was supposed to have gone on a trip out West with Papa and Gramma that summer when he got sick. I remember sending him a card when he was in the hospital, telling him that it was okay if we couldn't go that year, we could go some other summer. I don't think I knew he was dying. I wonder if my parents ever actually gave him that card. I still have it.
I don't remember much else about his death. I think my parents largely tried to shelter my siblings and me from the pain.
But I do have many vivid memories of his life. When I look at my eight-year-old, it is surprising to me how much I actually remember. I remember he liked to cook and try new recipes (although I think it was my Gramma that did a lot of the chopping and preparation for him). I remember he liked to make wine -- I remember huge tubs of fermenting chokecherries in the basement of his house. I remember helping him pick those berries. I remember camping with him and my Gramma in their camper. I remember sitting in the back of the camper and eating blackberries with sugar and cream. I remember him often standing near the fireplace or a campfire, with his back to the fire -- it is "Papa's pose" still when I see people warming themselves in this way. I remember he liked Heath bars. I remember he liked to tell jokes and talk with people -- anybody.
I am grateful that my children still have all four of their grandparents. In fact, they still have two great-grandmothers. It is important for the young to spend time with the old, to learn from their wisdom. It is a sad occurrence in our society that the old are too often "put away." People are scared of getting old, and don't want to be reminded of what it may be like. People are scared of death. I hope that when the time comes when our parents are unable to live on their own, that my husband and I can find a way to take care of them in our home, or near our home. I would love to have a grandparent's apartment attached to our home. I want my children to experience life in its entirety. I want them to love babies and the elderly. I want them to enjoy being young, but to appreciate getting old. I want them to see all life as a gift from God. And I want them to view growing old as what it is -- getting closer to that end for which we were made -- beatitude in Heaven.
Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord. And let perpetual light shine upon him. May his soul, and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.