|A great great-grandfather|
Recently, my 85 year-old grandfather passed away after a short, painful illness but a long and wonderful life. It wasn't a surprise, but I am still heart-broken. My grandfather and I had a wonderful relationship. We were both storytellers, both loved history and the outdoors, both loved each other.
Not only was I lucky enough to have my two sets of my grandparents with me well into adulthood, my children were lucky enough to have and know and love great-grandparents. This is a rare and wonderful thing. If you think grandparents spoil your kids, you haven't seen what great-grandparents can do! My boys love Gonky and Gramy, and as Gonky's condition grew worse, I knew we'd have to bring up the subject of death and funerals.
We tried to be as honest as possible and we asked them to show their love for both of their great-grandparents as he declined. We talked on the phone frequently and my oldest made wonderful pictures and cards to send them. Then, finally, we had to tell the boys Gonky had died.
As we traveled home to Maryland for the funeral, I worried that their behavior would get out of control during the long days and stressful situations.
I should've had more faith in my kids. Maybe they sensed that we needed their best behavior. Maybe my husband & I actually did a good job of preparing them. But they were quiet, friendly and respectful during all the events.
At the viewing, they loved looking at the photos of Gonky as a young man. At the church, they were impressed that the homily was all about Gonky, a man they knew & loved, and his wife Gramy. At the cemetery, they were thrilled with the Naval salute of my grandfather and amazed at the beauty of the flowers and butterflies that visited.
They found joy in each moment of that difficult time. They didn't think about the past or the future, they just found something wonderful, right then and there, and were content. As we drove away from the cemetery I considered this, and it brought to mind one of my most favorite poems of all time. I think my grandfather would have loved it, too.
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
— Wendell Berry