What does it look like to give thanks during a season of sadness? What does it feel like to be thankful when you’re still grieving a great loss? This was my year to find this out.
It’s hard to put into words all that my grandfather was. From my youngest years I remember him as a giant of a man with a deep, booming baritone voice and an infectious laugh. I remember a man who I very rarely saw reading a book (always the paper though, even to the very end) yet who seemed to know everything. I remember a man who delighted in delight, whether it was Christmas decorations and the train set or playing Atari or watching Robin Hood with us for the umpteenth time. I remember a man of incredible generosity, who loved pressing a twenty into my hand as I was leaving, whether I needed it or not. I remember a man who had one of the greatest senses of humor I’ve ever known and how much I enjoyed making him laugh. I remember a man who knew how to tell a story well and who had lived a life full of memorable experiences. I remember a man who was full of surprises, like when I would pop in to visit on summer evenings and find him watching The Simpsons.
The last time I was in Pennsylvania, Grandpop had just received his cancer diagnosis. In a moment when everyone else was somehow out of the room, he told me that the doctor thought he had between 6 months and a year left. With a laugh, he said “I think he’s being overly optimistic.” That was at the end of August and by November he was gone. Yet again, Grandpop was right.
Even as we mourn it’s hard to be too sad. His was a life well lived and full to the very end. He finished well and was confident in what awaited him. When I left his house for the last time, I very intentionally said “See you later, Grandpop!” to him and I truly believe that will be the case.
As I’ve struggled to process this new reality and felt the pain of this loss, I’ve kept coming back to a hymn we used to sing at AUC on Thanksgiving. The lyrics encourage us to “count our many blessings, name them one by one”. This loss is so significant because of what an incredible man my grandfather was and how much he meant to me. My life is full of so many blessings because of the times I shared with him. Thinking back through all of those memories and sharing stories of Grandpop with Marcia has been a huge blessing these last few weeks.
Even in the midst of sadness, there is so much joy. So many things to be thankful for. So much to celebrate.