Sunday, July 21, 2013

Living On Through Our Family

My wife's last living grandfather passed away last Monday morning. He had been struggling with health, but at 85 years old he took each day grateful for all that he had. He was an amazing man, a true Alaskan Pioneer. He worked hard, but did so each day for the love of his family. I met him for the first time days before I married my wife. I felt as though I was instant family to him, and to be a part of this family (Fairbanks Royalty I call them) is quite amazing. Each time I saw him while around town, there was never a question of whether I would get a "hello," but whether I would be able to withstand the strength with which he hugged those he cared about. And he cared tremendously about my wife and our family.

Losing someone you care about is terribly difficult. And I will admit that I wasn't the closest person to Grandpa C. I'm not a blood relative. I'm just a lucky guy that hit the marriage lottery. That said, the hardest part of loosing her grandfather is feeling the pain his passing has created inside all of those that I am closely tied to. My wife, of course, but also my sister-in-laws, and most directly, my father-in-law. My admiration toward my wife's father is... well let's just say that I feel privileged to call him dad. He is amazing, and is someone that I look up to at level of my father. So, seeing him hurt at the loss of his father and knowing how much I care for both him and my own dad makes the passing of Grandpa C even that much harder.

But through all of the pain that the family is going through, I'm learning so much about coping with sorrow by seeing this wonderful crew come together to hold onto what Grandpa C created, family. And at the center of the healing has been the great grandkids of the patriarch. My kids have been a part of the ray of happiness that has provided the break in the grief that my father-in-law, his siblings, and all of their kids have been feeling. They have been able to provide the smile through the tears.  Each one of the little kiddos running around is here because of what this one man created with his life. And now these little ones are helping to provide the sense of continued history for this great man, and to be here to help warm our hearts during this difficult time.

I don't know what your personal belief system is, and I'm not here to preach anything to you. I can't say that I'm a "religious" person. I am spiritual, and I have a deep faith in the beauty of life. That said, what I have come to believe about life and death has been learned through the lives of my own children and their great-grandparents. It has so impressed me to watch the interactions between people separated in life by some many years. They live through each other creating a bond that is truly overwhelming. Each hug is cherished. Each laugh a moment trapped in time. They've taught me to live for my family and the moments we have together. To never be afraid to hug as tight as you can, so the person can feel how deeply your care for them. To not wait for a phone call. To go to everything and to cheer loudly for everyone. And, most importantly, to celebrate each and every life we touch.

Since my oldest was born 7.5 years ago, he's lost 3 great grandparents. Three people that loved him to a level that only great grandparents could understand. And while you might think that this has been hard to deal with on the parenting side, I can say that his strength and faith in life has only made my wife and I stronger. The way all my kids have embraced living, and celebrating life is so remarkable. They keep everyone they care about so tightly in their hearts that each day is one to celebrate. The memories, the spirits, and the emotions they had with each of the "greats" continues to stay with them. I've witnessed my oldest have conversations with his "greats" after they have passed. I've seen how the new additions into our home seem hand picked by a recently lost loved one. I've witnessed so many miracles in my children that my belief system is ever changed. It doesn't make loosing someone so wonderful any easier. We all miss Grandpa C so much, and as the entire family prepares to go back to the new normal after this week of being together I can only cherish the fact that my four children had the honor to feel his love through so many kisses and hugs. He will always live forever in each of them. We love you Grandpa C. Thank you for helping to create such a wonderful and loving family, and we know that in this new adventure you are on each day you continue to pray and light candles for us all.