As I turn to you and I say
Thank goodness for the good souls
That make life better
As I turn to you and I say
If it wasn't for the good souls
Life would not matter
Good Souls by Starsailor
My grandfather died on December 21st after ninety-four years of sharing his life with others. I left Tennessee in the cold morning drenched in fog, through the rains of Arkansas that gave way to the warm sunshine in Louisiana. I had eight hours to reflect on life and death and everything in between. One thing for certain, death is universal.
Asking why is moot and asking how no longer matters. What does matter is how I choose to remember him. I have lost childhood pets, old friends, best friends, cousins, great grandparents and grandparents but nothing ever prepares you. Even the expected can become unexpected. The loss of someone else closely connected to you never gets easier. Unfortunately, it is the inevitable end for us all. I can't speak of him as husband, father or career man. I can only speak of him from my personal perspective as my grandfather. We all have a different relationship to someone than others do. Those memories they leave with you are as unique as a fingerprint.
Until I was seven years old, I spent a great deal of time with him since we lived in the same neighborhood. Even after we moved out to the developing west side of town, we still took any opportunity to get together. Throughout high school I was self consumed, morphing towards the early stages of maturity. Then I left for college so I have basically been gone for twenty years now. I went home as much as I could, but that time and space left my relationship with him thin. However, I have no regrets. I never missed an opportunity to say, 'I love you'.
As a kid he taught me how to swing a golf club, how to use a CB radio, to use Morse code and to tell when vegetables were ripe for the picking. His clever tongue certainly inspired me to write. My mother put together a collection of his poetry. It gave new life to those old poems. There was something about holding his work in a hardback form which made me proud and encouraged me to write. The smell of the paper and ink along with the permanence of print was invigorating. When I was in town for my other grandparent's fiftieth anniversary I took photos of him. Years later he requested that one of those photos of him be used on his obituary. I can't even begin to explain how honored and touched I was by this. When I saw his obituary there was that photo smiling back at me.
A funeral is not just about closure but for honoring lost ones. As pallbearer, I kissed that Carnation boutonniere and laid it on his casket then I began to let go. The physical being that contained so much life was being placed in its final resting place. This ritual is not for them but for us left here to carry on what they had written on the pages of today. Such a loss brings family together in a bitter-sweet reunion. Even the closest of families don't always get along but for a small moment in time all seems at peace. We can dwell in the sadness of the inevitable or we can allow ourselves to bath in the sunshine of fond memories. When I think of him I hear his big hearty laugh and see his jolly grin. He was my every day Santa.
It wasn't what he delivered but how he delivered it.
Curtis A. Schwab 1915-2009