As 2013 draws to a close, I find myself in a position very similar to that of two years ago, facing the new year ahead with a renewed sense of purpose. At the end of 2011 my dear Grandma passed away, leaving a legacy of tenderness and grace, and a family deeply devoted to the wonderful woman who made our lives special. At the head of this family was Pop, Granny’s husband, partner, lifelong love, and best friend. In observing Pop in the time that followed Granny’s death I learned a great deal about love, how it truly carries on even beyond death.
I also saw a living testament to the human spirit in Pop. Although he was grieving the loss of his other half, he continued to be a man full of humor and optimism, determination and courage, generosity and kindness, faith and wisdom. He carried the torch he and Grandma tended for 60 years together, full of all the goodness they built in the world, including our family.
In November of this year Pop passed away, joining his wife at rest. He fought an extremely difficult battle in the last months of his life, but again did not lose who he was. His humor shone through his pain and his primary concern continued to be not himself, but the well being of the others around him. He was the epitome of a class act, and demonstrated how to live with honor, humility, and selflessness until the very end.
These times of remembering our grandparents put things into a stark light, reminding us of what the important life pursuits are. Surrounding yourself with those whom you care about and who care about you. Filling each day with love. Giving of yourself to others. Living with honesty and dignity. Working hard to build a happy, simple life.
The past year has been full of many events in my life: some happy and some sad, some trying and some uplifting. There is no shortage of personal lessons or a list of things to improve. But I feel that the most fitting and important lessons I can take into 2014 – and all new years to follow – are those examples imparted to me by Pop’s life.
Pop was a man of extraordinary character. A humble, patient man who treated all people with respect and justice. He was a living, breathing history book, conveying detailed accounts of his life and the stories of generations who came before him. And he did it all with a smile, spreading joy to us listeners with his countless jokes and unending good humor.
I remember Pop telling me once that every day, going to work as a police officer, he would repeat the Prayer of St. Francis in his head. It was the example by which he wanted to live, the way he wanted to model his life when interacting with people he encountered. I believe that whether you are religious or not, these words are beautiful and humbling and provide an unerring guide to follow in life. They remind one to pause and think before one acts, to put others before oneself, and to act with purpose. The words capture perfectly how Pop lived his life and, as such, are a perfect place to begin with new resolutions.
Make me an instrument of peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.
|E.A.G., September 10, 1929 – November 5, 2013