Life and Death

My grandpa passed away today.

It was a slow, hard fight with cancer that took him, so this wasn’t a surprise and we are all glad to see his suffering ending even when it makes us sad to lose him.

I’m sad that he won’t get to meet our daughter. That our daughter won’t get to know him.

There is something special about that generation, so if you still have your grandparents alive and kicking, call them right now and ask them to tell you a story or teach you a life lesson or just tell them you love them, because they don’t make ’em like they used to, and that generation is a treasure trove of wisdom and entertainment and just good solid common sense.

Stop reading and call your grandparents.

I was lucky to be around my grandparents (on both sides) a fair amount growing up.

I remember my grandpa taking me to school one day in his Honda Prelude. I was wearing my favorite outfit (flowered jumper!) and I didn’t feel so hot. Peanut butter on toast with apple sauce is not so pleasant when you throw it up. In the back of Grandpa’s snazzy car. To say he was less than pleased would be… well, truthful. He was less than pleased, but he kindly helped me get to school in vomit-free attire and never mentioned the unspeakable things he had to do to clean up my mess.

Grandma and Grandpa lived in California during my pre-teen years, and boy was it a Shiz Family Adventure to take the Mark III van and drive the 20+ hours to visit them! We spent one vacation day at Knott’s Berry Farm and Grandpa somehow got stuck being the adult on the water raft ride. This isn’t one of those “rollercoasters that go through water”, people. This was a raft ride where people paid money to bomb you with water bombs and you were pretty much guaranteed a free shower with the price of admission. Nobody informed Grandpa of this. And again, the man was less than pleased.

After several uncouth characters targeted our raft, Grandpa had had enough. He was wearing pants he did not wish to get wet, so he unbuckled his seatbelt and stood up to avoid sitting in the puddle that was accumulating.

Imagine the scene if you will. A rogue rider in a raft full of 10 to 15-year-olds, teetering precariously and shaking his fists in rage at the bombers, as the raft careens along, dodging water bullets. Obviously this is not a safe situation and the enforcers at Knott’s Berry Farm would not sit idly by while the Rogue Rider tempts fate.

“Sir, you must remain seated with your seatbelt fastened for the entirety of the ride.”

The Rogue Rider ignores the order.

“Sir, you need to sit down, now!”

“Come down and make me!” retorts the Rogue Rider.

That was my grandpa. I’ll remember him always as the Rogue Rider, the kindly Cleaner-Upper, the man who sometimes talked on behalf of his dog.

Since Baby Dub was conceived, both the Hubs and I have lost a grandparent.

The Hubs’ Grandma R passed away before we had a chance to make our big announcement to his family. Fortunately, he’d gone to visit her the week before and spilled the beans so that she’d have a little good news to focus on. He told her to keep it a secret, and she kept her mouth shut later when one of her daughters came in to the room… but after she left, Grandma blabbed it without delay to the nurse who’d come to check on her. She was so proud of her grandson and adding a new great-grandchild to her tally… she just couldn’t help but share.

Grandma R was a spunky lady with an arsenal of quotables that I’m sad my daughter will never hear for herself. In my husband’s adolescence, Grandma R caught the Hubs in a particularly obvious lie, and admonished: “Son, you can feed me s*** in the dark, just don’t tell me it’s pie.”

Losing a family member is never fun, but it does force you to reflect on the lives they’d led, on the way they’ve impacted who you’ve become, and on how you want to impact the lives of those around you. Baby Dub won’t get to ride the raft with the Rogue Rider, or get caught lying to Grandma R, but she will be entirely surrounded by incredible people who can help teach her the lessons they would have taught, who can tell her stories about the family members that came before her, and who can create for her memories that stick with her like adventures at Knott’s Berry Farm or quotables from Grandma R.

As hard as it is to lose somebody, death, just like life, should be a celebration. Where a new life gives us reason to celebrate potential, memories to be made, dreams to be dreamed and anything that’s possible, death gives us reason to celebrate the contribution of one person to the world, to celebrate the things that would never have been the same without that person, and celebrate our remaining chance to be important and make a difference for those in our lives.

Either way, celebrate.

If nothing else, life deserves to be a celebration.

Now seriously. Go call your grandparents.

4 thoughts on “Life and Death

  1. Nelita C says:

    So eloquent.

  2. […] I’ve been reminded of how important our family legacy is. This is partially due to the sad saying-goodbye that comes with losing family members. It’s also due to the stories you are privy to once you […]

  3. […] My grandfather died on my birthday last year. He had a long, painful battle with cancer. Over a year before he died, we thought we were going to say goodbye to him. He’d been on life support and the decision was made to take him off of the machines that were keeping him alive. As family gathered around him and sang hymns and prayed together, we all were thinking in the back of our minds that these were our last moments with Grandpa. But his attachment to life was more tenacious than tenuous, and he somehow fought back to us, against all odds. We got another year (and some change) with Grandpa. […]

  4. […] then, I came to this post, from my birthday last year, from the day my Grandpa […]

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