May 31, 2012

Endless Love

I was inspired today by a Facebook friend's post. She shared,
"A couple of weeks ago, a very lovely woman who had been our hospice patient died with her lifelong love by her side. In her final weeks, he'd stayed relentlessly by her side, still in love after many decades, unwilling to be apart from each other even for minutes. This morning, we received word that his heart gave out--or, perhaps, won out; he has gone to be with his love again. ♥"

My friend's touching post had me thinking about my own grandparents and then when I realized that this coming weekend would be their 79 year wedding anniversary, I realized I needed to tell their story. I've written about them before. They were the most incredible couple I've ever known. Yes, I'm biased. This is my blog, I can be.

It's hard to believe that Grandpa has been gone over ten years. I still hear his voice and see my favorite gentleman patting my arms, encouraging me, and reminding me why manners matter. My grandfather was a dapper, stately man. When he passed away in 2002, I gave the eulogy. Some excerpts...

... I thank you all for the honor to try to share with you what I know about the man I am proud to call Grandpa...
Grandpa, the devoted husband to his wonderful wife of nearly 69 years. The man who still opened doors for Grandma and held her hand. The man who taught our family what romance is. The man whose marriage is held as a measure of success by all of us. The who found love at first sight with Grandma, and nearly 70 years later had love at EACH sight... with a love and devotion that was apparent to anyone who saw them together. 
The man who taught us all what love, life and family is. A man many are proud to call friend, but a select few have the privilege of calling family. Just last week, the youngest member of the family, my daughter, was talking about one of the characters in her storybooks. She was explaining to me, "He isn't such a bad guy." I looked at her and knew... it was in her blood, spanning the generations; she was speaking the way her great grandfather would. If we all learned anything from Grandpa, it was to give the other guy the benefit of the doubt. I smiled when I realized some legacies are so strong, they become a part of us forever. 
This week, each of us felt a piece of us go with Grandpa. But an even bigger part of him stayed here and is within each of us. Grandpa's legacy lives on. We are proud members of his family, with him as the rock. A man who lived 95 years and never wasted one minute of his time with us. To quote Grandpa, "Ain't that a son of a gun?"

At his funeral, Grandma insisted that everything be red roses. Grandpa was a consummate romantic. He never let a single milestone pass without giving his bride red roses. It was a source of joy and frustration at times. They were wintering in Florida one year and Grandpa said he needed to run to the store for a minute. As the hours ticked by, he didn't return. Everyone was panicked and worried, pacing, wondering where he was. A few hours later, he pulled in the driveway, carrying a dozen red roses. It was Grandma's birthday, and he had been driving around trying to find a florist, because he couldn't let her day slip by without the roses.

After he left us, Grandma carried on. I'll never forget her grief as they closed the casket, begging him to come for her soon. Our matriarch found new strength. She made up her mind to live the rest of her days with gusto. They had moved into an assisted living facility a few weeks before Grandpa died so she was in a comfortable place. I believe with all my soul that is why Grandpa could go. He knew his bride was safe.

A few years ago, as the Christmas season drew closer, Grandma began a slow decline. She always said she didn't want to outlive her husband. She was going to be 95 the coming year. She then said, she wasn't sure she wanted another Christmas without him and she didn't make plans as she normally had to celebrate. But we held out hope. She had come back from a stroke earlier in the year. Her doctors and therapists were amazed at her strength as she was determined to eek out every ounce of quality from her remaining days. They were in awe at the effort our 94 year old grandmother put into her recovery and yes, she came back from a stroke, completely. It was incredible.

Our own wishes drowned out Grandma's. She told us repeatedly that her journey was ending, but we just weren't ready to let her go, I suppose. She tried to help us understand. Then, on Christmas Eve, 10 minutes before midnight, she joined Grandpa. I believe he was standing at the pearly gates, holding a bouquet of red roses, asking her what took her so long.

I gave the eulogy then also, and here are few of those excerpts:

We comfort each other knowing that every minute of Grandma’s 94 years was spent living life to the fullest. We remember the spunky, strong matriarch of our family, and yet, we shed tears. I’m sure part of our sorrow is more about reckoning with our own mortality. I know I’ll never sit on Grandma’s lap again, but I haven’t done that for 30 some years, thank goodness. Perhaps it’s about our own aging that has us struggling today. 
The wonderful thing about Grandma was she gave each one of us a very special piece of herself to carry on her legacy. love of fishing, fresh baked bread, water and swimming. farm life. golf. laughter, family traditions. incredible sense of style.  Those are just a few things I could think of, I’m sure you can think of many more. Each one of us carries forth a special gift that grandma gave us with all the love she had. She taught us traditions, had open arms, and loved each one of us unconditionally. 
She surprised all of us after Grandpa passed away. We never imagined the sort of strength she would find without Grandpa, yet I never felt he was far away.  She kissed his picture nightly, her Dapper Dan. She kept him alive for each of us, not just with her good spirits, but with the same love he gave her for 69 years. That love she gave us was evident yesterday at the funeral home, as the room was filled with our own friends and family. 
I think Grandpa has been all over heaven looking for just the right red roses, and he finally has her bouquet. He came to give them to her. They spent Christmas together smiling at the family they created, and look forward to watching us for many more years to come. 
Thank you, Grandma. Of the things you’ve left behind, the love, the things you taught us by word and deed are the most important gifts you’ve given us.  Those are the things we most treasure. We strive to carry your example for the rest of our days until we see you again.
We all love you so much; give Grandpa a hug from everyone. 

This Sunday would be their 79 year anniversary. They brought so much to our lives. It is an honor to be their grandchild.


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