Lessons From Grandpa
At 1:00am on Tuesday morning I received a call that my Grandfather had passed away. It was 3:00pm on Thanksgiving Monday there, where the rest of my family had gathered to say good-bye. My Grandpa was 82 years old and two days before had what they called a “catastrophic stroke.”
Grandpa Rick as I called him, was healthy and active. He was still living a life that many people would have been jealous of. People will say he lived a good life; that he would have preferred it this way, to go suddenly “with his boots on.” No long battle with cancer, no time in a hospice wasting away. Those people would be right, he would have chosen that, but that doesn’t stop the tears coming because simply put, he was a great grandpa, I loved him, and I’ll miss him. My daughter (his third great-grandchild) who will be born in December, will never meet him.
There’s something about death that inspires self-reflection. It highlights our fear of insignificance and our desire for meaning. As we remember someone we scrutinize their life, remembering their achievements, honoring their values, and assigning meaning to everything they did. If this person found meaning and significance then perhaps we all can. What lessons can I learn from my Grandpa’s life?
Grandpa Rick worked hard. The morning of his stroke he fixed the toilet. The week before, my sister came home to find him up on the roof cleaning the gutters. He had enough tools to start a small hardware store and he used all of them. He used his tools on the house, but he also made us an amazing dollhouse and I remember one time spending the day with him building my first bird house.
He liked to be prepared. When he heard a joke he liked he would write it down and keep it in his pocket. Whenever he came to visit, he always had a new one to tell.
He always looked sharp. I don’t think he went a day in his life without shaving in the morning. His button-up shirt was always tucked in perfectly, and if he wore a tie it would hit the middle of his belt perfectly, not one millimeter higher or lower. He kept a comb in his breast pocket and kept every hair in place.
Grandpa Rick loved to talk politics, today is the federal election and you know what, his voice will still be heard. He took his responsibilities seriously, and he had taken advantage of advance voting. Even though he’s no longer here, he will have a say in who becomes Canada’s next Prime Minister.
My mom used to talk about growing up and joke about how he would often complain that kids “made dust.” That idea went against his desire for order, but I think he softened by the time the grandkids came around because we always had a great time at Grandma and Grandpa’s house, with no fear of ‘dust.’
He lived very intentionally. Whether it was in business, finance, recreation, or his relationships, he was very intentional with where he invested money and his time. But despite all these things, his significance isn’t found in his successful business or in his hard work. His significance is found in his relationships with those around him. In the way he loved my Grandma, provided for his daughters, and was the stable rock through any crisis. His significance is found in the fact that he was present. The fact that he showed up and loved us. His intentionality and hard work are part of what made these relationships strong, those values are as much a part of him as the handkerchief he always kept in his pocket, but it’s who he was as a husband, father, and grandfather that will be remembered forever.
This I think, is the greatest thing to learn. We can be intentional to become smarter, richer, more generous, and more organized, but to find significance in our lives, we need to be intentional with how we love and be generous in how we give of ourselves, just like my Grandpa did.