Last week was hard. But also beautiful. And terrible. And lovely.
I sat in a room filled with family as we all shared stories about my wonderful grandfather. We laughed as much as we cried and the nurses looked the other way when we smuggled in my grandfathers dog – Buster – for a final snuggle before he passed. It was a hard thing to witness, but beyond the sadness of his last moments I witnessed the greatest people I’ve ever loved gathering to be there for the kindest man I’ve ever known and it made me realize how lucky we are to have someone who is so hard to say goodbye to.
“This is what it’s supposed to be like,” I told Victor. “A celebration. Kindness. Understanding. Laughter. Compassion. This is how you know you made a difference. This is what we all should hope for in the end.”
I learned stories about my grandfather I’d never heard before. About being raised by bootleggers during prohibition and inventing imaginary cows and working on planes in the military. He was the most religious man I’ve ever met but his brand of religion was in kindness and love. He was a quiet man but he wasn’t afraid to speak out when the church made what he thought were recent missteps. Hailey came out as gay at the same time his church decided to not conduct gay marriage and although I never knew it he let his disappointment in their decision be known. I know that he’d have felt the same way whether Hailey was gay or not, but it was so lovely to know that he was fighting for her and for others like her in his own quiet way. I wonder how often others are fighting for us behind the scenes. They say that you never know what battles others are fighting at the moment but I often forget that we never know how many good and wonderful people quietly move the world forward in such important and positive ways. Those people don’t make the news. But they make the world.
If you read my post before this one you read about the silver moth and how I saw it as a sign that we’d all gather together to be with my grandfather as he flew away home. On the night that he passed the moon was so enormous in the sky that I pulled my mom and sister outside and we stared at it in silence. August’s full moon is sometimes called The Flying Up Moon, because it’s when birds fledge and fly away. It felt like a sign. But things often do when you are reaching for meaning in sadness.
Then at the burial my grandfather’s dear friend told a parable about belief in the afterlife even when you doubt and it seemed fitting. And then everyone gathered together at the grave sang a song I had not been expecting. I’ll Fly Away.
I am a girl who believes in signs.
My grandfather was such a force for good that he leaves a hole in the world. I hope to fill it. With compassion and love and forgiveness and generosity and most importantly joy. Instead of flowers he asked that people support Planned Parenthood or Bread for the World or – most importantly – to go out and commit a simple act of kindness for a friend or loved one or a stranger.
Be kind to one another. It makes a difference.