My grandpa passed away on February 21st, at the age of 71. Ten years ago he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's (later diagnosed as Lewy Body), six years ago lung cancer, and more recently bladder cancer. He fought for so many years, and never once let himself be defeated.
He was there for me from day one, quite literally. He was so close with my dad - Nintendo 64 buddies. He taught me all about model trains. He played with us. He loved us. His sense of humor was unforgettable - we have plenty of pictures and memories to prove such.
When he married my grandma, they created a home for a very blended family of nine kids, twenty-nine grandkids, and six great-grandkids.
My grandpa was ridden to a hospice bed for three days before he opened his eyes and tried to talk to my grandma. For five minutes he held her hand and told him it was okay to go.
Days before he was in the bed, he had a great Tuesday. He made his way downstairs on his own, to take one last look at his handmade model train. He knew, and it was okay. We now have this memory to hold on to of who he truly was and who he wanted to leave us as.
My grandma asked me to speak at the funeral...
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-5
A husband, a father, a grand father, a great grand father.
He was patiently there in hospital waiting rooms awaiting our arrival. He taught us how to ride a bike, how to play horseshoes, pool, pinball, and even slots. He was there in the stands on the field or in the gym. He was there when we graduated, whether it was kindergarten or high school. He danced with us on our wedding day. He taught us how to tend to pumpkins bigger than ourselves. He captured every holiday, birthday, milestone with a camcorder in hand. That image is so fond in my mind. Big 'ole camcorder perched up on his shoulder, always with a smile peeking through.
His eyes would light up as he flipped the switch to turn his train on. Telling us about the new track he laid, the new rocks he glued on one at a time, the houses, the stores, the trees, the tunnel. Every part a piece of him. Every part of memory of his passion and heart. I watched him as he poured through every page of his Navy album, remembering each and every moment as if it was yesterday. The pride, the joy, the laughter.
And that is only the beginning. Just the beginning of all the memories this room holds. Of everything you are know picturing in your mind, holding on to so dear.
Most of all, he has taught us to love. He held us when we cried. He cared for us when we were sick. He showed us joy in daily moments. His way of making grandma cry every Christmas. The love that was always evident. I had the privilege of living with them for a few months, although grandpa was certain I was just a mouse who snuck in at night and back out in the morning. But my grandma told me one night that he was her true love. No matter what had happened before, he was the one. She stood in a church and she vowed her life to him, and she would never go back on that promise. No matter how bad the disease got. No matter how many times she broke down. No matter how difficult it got, love was stronger. It would be, and was always, stronger.
There's a headstone in Ireland that reads: "Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal."
We all have different memories, different moments in life with him, and we all know that we are better for his presence in our lives. Every one here knew my grandpa at a different point in his life. We all have our memories. Our marks of the lessons he left us with. A different view of his smile. A different sense of his humor. Their is no grief in knowing how lucky we are to have these to hold on to.
Because, though in the past years his mind and body began to defeat him, his heart never did. No disease could diminish that; no death could steal the joy we know hold so dear in our hearts. And I hope we will all believe, that he did indeed, win his battle.