Tuesday, January 29, 2008

All that Remains

A week ago today we buried my grandfather's remains. I say remains purposefully - dementia had slowly been stealing him from us over the past few years, leaving us with its remains. But oh, what remains were left. When moments of lucidity would flash across his face, his eyes would open and his mouth would stretch into a grin, and he was the Granddaddy I had always known. On our final visit, I lifted Sam up to see him, and I saw that spark of recognition dance into his eyes. "You named him after me!" he proclaimed with the biggest smile I had seen on his face in years. That is the moment I've carried with me for months and encapsulates his life best - faith, family, and love.

I also say remains because I know we didn't actually bury my grandfather; he is with his Father and Master now and is more whole than he has ever been. That's why, last week, we held a service of celebration, not one of mourning. But the entire experience was a surreal one for me. During the service, I heard wonderful men say wonderful things about a wonderful man I knew, but that man was not my Granddaddy. They knew him as pastor, as friend, in roles in which I had observed him over the past thirty years, but they did not know him as a grandfather. I was left with an incomplete feeling I could not explain until last Friday when my brother posted his tribute. That evening, reading his words in the darkness of our den, I heard the man I knew, the man as truly only Stephen and I knew him. Thank you, Stephen, for giving voice to feelings that were swirling in my head too fast for me to express at the time, for describing the man who towered over my childhood and made me long to be as tall as he (I missed it by one inch), for portraying the sensation of being smothered in one of his hugs (hugs he freely gave me throughout his life), for explaining the way you instinctively slowed down to hear one of his stories both because they were so enjoyable and because he told them so well, and for pinpointing why his was a life worth celebrating.

Oh what remains. I see them stretching through the generations. In the name my father and son carry and I proudly wear. In the ability to captivate with stories my father and brother truly inherited from him. In the legacy of faith and service that runs through his descendants, even down to the youngest. In the model of devotion in marriage I still try to echo. And in the genuine love of people as children of God he demonstrated.

My Granddaddy loved the outdoors. He loved things living and things growing. And so it is fitting that he related so many stories to me as a child about my heritage, about my roots. His own roots were deep, wide, and strong, and will continue to nourish me and my children through generations. That's the Granddaddy I knew.

1 comment:

Liz said...

Oh wow Andrew, you really made me cry. Would that we could all leave such a wonderful legacy to our children and their children.