French Word(s) of the Day: les nécrologies (lay neck rawl oh geez)- obituaries
Days in Quarantine: 60
Days in Shelter in Place: 54
My grandfather died yesterday. He was a wonderful man, and there should have been many, many people at his funeral celebrating his life. Instead, only a handful were able to go in person while the rest of us live-streamed from our homes.
Going through a funeral service during Covid-19 was something I had been hoping to avoid. Funerals are for saying goodbye and being with others who remember the deceased, but if you can’t be there with friends and family or at the grave it just doesn’t feel real.
I can’t change things, but I’m memorializing him in the best way I can right now. He used to be an avid reader of this blog, and I like to think he’ll see this somehow.
I should probably start out by saying I generally hate obituaries. I’ve always felt they are a list of accomplishments and family members without the true essence of the actual person. The stories are the interesting part.
First, Grandfather was always “Grandfather.” He wasn’t a Poppy or Gramps. It was the full word. He was a formal, polite, Southern gentleman. We called him the last true Southern gentleman. He never swore, never drank, and never said a mean word about anyone (in my hearing, anyway). He listened patiently to anything you said. With someone else, it might have felt fake. But with Grandfather, you knew it’s who he truly was. He knew it was important to be kind, and so he was. He knew it was important to give back to the community, so he did. It’s rare to find someone who lives that honestly and purely.
Grandfather would tell stories if you asked him, but he was more interested in what your stories were. When he read my blog, he didn’t write in the comment section. Instead, he would send me long emails. He would comment on things I had said, ask questions, and always tell me that he was praying for me.
What struck me about his emails was how detailed they were. He read my writing- really read it. He was thoughtful in everything he did. If someone had any kind of accomplishment, he always made sure to take it in fully. When he found out I was giving a speech he couldn’t attend, he apologized for not being able to attend and asked to read the full speech. When it was a play I had been in, he wanted to see if anyone had filmed it. (And if you’ve ever seen school productions, you know willingly watching one is true love.) With him, caring was never just lip service. He was actively invested in your life.
He loved his wife. It was obvious to anyone who saw them interact. On their 50th anniversary, I watched him look at her during their vow renewal like she was the greatest thing he’d ever seen on Earth. That day, tearing up at the memory, several of his granddaughters agreed that they would only ever marry someone who looked at them that exact way. He taught us what real love and respect look like, a feat in this strange world.
Grandfather loved all of his family. He attended every event he possibly could for every child, grandchild, and great-grandchild. He knew how important it was to be there for the people you loved. He celebrated every accomplishment, and would tell us how proud of us he was. He was one of the most thoughtful people I’ve ever met, and he never wanted anyone to think their accomplishments weren’t important.
When you called and talked to him, he always made it seem like it was the best call he’d ever received. He’d always say, “hey, thank you for calling and talking to me,” like you’d just done him a huge favor by letting him listen to you ramble.
Maya Angelou said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Grandfather, we’ll never forget how special you made us all feel. May we follow in your footsteps and do the same for others. I love you.