LB and I took an unexpected trip up north this week. My grandfather passed away at the age of 89 on March 18th.
He was an Irishman through and through and it was fitting that he got to spend one last St. Patrick's Day on earth before getting to meet the guy himself in heaven. He was born in Northern Michigan and after spending his youth on the farm, served in the military during WWII and worked in Chicago until he retired back up north with my grandma in the late 80's.
He built his own retirement home in MI and I remember helping him build it as kids. I think I would've been about 8, and as I look back, I kinda wonder at the wisdom of giving me a hammer......
My grandfather reminds me of no one so much as my younger sister, #8. He was quiet most of the time, but every now and then he would say something so profound or funny that it would make you wonder what was going on behind the quiet surface. I have fond memories of a quiet, gentle and kind grandpa who enjoyed reading the paper, always carried his reading glasses in his front shirt pocket and liked nothing more than walking around his garden with his hands behind his back planning the plants he would plant or surveying his work.
He was the perfect balance to my outgoing grandmother. The quiet to her boisterous, the stillness to her busyness. They were married 60 years and watching my grandmother as we laid him to rest, I couldn't help but be awed by the magnitude of such a long life together. The fruit of their lives together stood all around her wheelchair as we bid him a final farewell.
As a veteran, the honor guard was on hand to play one last farewell and sound off with a gun salute. It was hauntingly beautiful when the bugles played. One sounded from a distance against the rest and it was as if Grandpa's bugle was sounding from far off on his journey home. When my grandmother was presented with the American flag, tears I thought I had finished crying sprung up at the finality of such a presentation.
The blessings in such a hard parting did not go unnoticed. My grandfather was in failing health for several years and when he passed it was peacefully and painlessly in his sleep. He had two of his children by his side and all of his children and grandchildren at his burial.
The gathering at the funeral and burial was mostly family, but the fruit of their marriage was impressive. My mother has 4 siblings, who were all in attendance with their children and the spouses who could be there. All of my eight siblings and I were there, as well. I felt wrapped in family as we mourned together and I hope Grandma had that same sensation.
Even though it was difficult, it was amazing to see all my brothers and sisters. I know I've talked before about how much I enjoy them, but there's just nothing that compares to having us all together. There was laughter in the midst of tears and joy in youth as we celebrated a long life well lived. As I mentioned, my second to youngest sister reminds me so much of Grandpa - the joy of big families is seeing those personalities carry on and help keep our departed close in our hearts. We will still miss him, and it'll be hard when we go to MI for our family reunion and he's not there this summer, but I'm trying to remember the beauty of a life well-lived and the rewards that are waiting for him.
Rest in peace Grandpa. May the journey home be swift and the gardens of heaven ready for your inspection.