We lost an important member of our family this week. Mark couldn’t manage to choke out the words, but we squeezed hands and held our hearts as I told our Little Ones the news: Grandpop had died. After a sudden and unexpected illness and three weeks of fighting in the hospital, Mark’s dad found peace in passing.
It was a delicate balance, with these Littles, of offering information. Enough to be straightforward and honest, but not so much as to scare or worry them needlessly. The last thing I wanted was to add to the burden that the Eldest sometimes carries — he doesn’t need to be afraid that the next time he catches a cold or gets a fever that he is being called Home. He, of course, is highly tuned into the frequency of energy that buzzes around him, so for a bit now, I had been fielding questions about Grandpop’s stay in the hospital. He is inquisitive and sensitive, and I had to face into the truth and urgency with him. And surprisingly, my little worrier didn’t worry: he insisted on prayer. So, we bowed our heads and lifted high all of our sadness and sorrow. The Middlest, with her spunk and humor, told us how the angels picked Grandpop up and took him to the parking lot, so that he could go home. These Littles teach us much.
There is something so ordinary about death. It happens to everyone, and it affects us all. We are all touched by the passing of life, just as we all are affected by a life coming into being. Yet these are momentous things — weighty and life-changing. But the dishes still need to be loaded into the dishwasher, Littles need to eat. The trash needs to go out. The bed needs to be made. We do the next thing.
We can honor Grandpop in the way we keep him alive: in our memories. We have a responsibility to tell these stories. The stories about how he helped us grow, and the wisdom he offered. We tell the stories about the humor and smile he infused in the everyday. We will let these stories soak into the life of the Littlest, who won’t have these memories on his own. He will know his Grandpop by the stories we tell. We tell the stories of his life because they are the stories of our lives, too. And we learn about each other, too, in this sharing — I’m finding out new things about this family of mine as I listen to these stories being told. And isn’t that what it’s about? I have a story, and you have a story, and as we let these stories leak out over a lifetime, we count on those who have been part of our story to turn these into folklore when we are gone — into family history. It’s these stories that connect us to each other, here and now, and to those before us, and after us, creating this family.
So we do the next thing. We pick up the dry cleaning, we make a dentist appointment. Another memory is sparked, another story to share. That’s not to say that it’s not hard. It is. There is a person missing from this earth today — a husband, father, friend, brother, grandpop. Our lives are richer, better, stronger because he was there. We love you, Grandpop.