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Because of the Life I Saw You Live

September 23, 2016 5 min read

Dear Grandpa,

I don’t think I understood “goodbye” until September 2016. Truly and honestly, nothing is ever really goodbye until the final breath is taken. And I don’t think I understood what saying “goodbye” to a family member would really feel like. But I’ve been living in that reality for a couple of weeks now, and I would like to take a break from it for awhile.

Goodbye is hard.

Truly and honestly hard.

Yesterday I got up and went to work. It was the day after you died and nothing felt so difficult but also equally you than putting on my shoes and walking out the door for a day of work. Today I took the day off because sometimes breaks are ok. I’ve been thinking about you with nearly every breath. Even when I’m with others, I’m thinking of you.

I’ve been thinking of the life you lived, the legacy you left. I’ve been thinking of memories and moments with you. I’ve been thinking of moments you made me laugh and moments you made me think. I’ve been thinking of nights at your house, meals around your dinner table, conversations out in your wood shop, rounds and rounds of spinning on the merry-go-round you made.

I’ve been thinking of the life I saw you live and tucking nuggets in the corner of my mind because the life I saw you live was powerful.

Grandpa, you welcomed people. I always laugh to myself when I think of your fridge. I can recognize a couple of pictures, but the rest are strangers to me. They cover the fridge. Is there an open space on that thing? Those are people I have never met but people you and grandma have loved on throughout the years. How many exchange students did you and grandma take in? How many people call you “grandpa” even though they aren’t related to you in the slightest? You welcomed people with open arms. Hospitality wasn’t a set of ideals and goals. It was simply a lifestyle. It coursed through your veins. Your smile and laughter, your jokes and stories, they welcomed people. Your home, your space was an open invitation for people to come and sit and be and stay awhile. Your arms stretched across the globe. Germany. Brazil. Too many countries and places to name. You are known as grandpa to so many people. Because of the life I saw you live, I deeply desire to be a vehicle of hospitality.

Grandpa, you cheered people on. The best stories are the ones that manifest themselves in different ways, in multiple people’s lives. I’m not the only one you’ve cheered on, the only one you’ve pushed a little closer to her dreams. I’ve heard stories, countless stories, of how you helped those around you do the hard work of seeing their dreams become a reality. This is core to who you were. You believed, with fierce convictions, in others. I’ve lost count of the number of times you asked me about my writing, asked me when I plan to publish my next book, asked me when I make time for writing. I know the story of mom and dad’s business. I know the hours you put in, helping your son and daughter-in-law accomplish what seemed impossible at the time. I know the ways you support my brothers, my cousins, my aunts and uncles. You were the greatest cheerleader. Because of the life I saw you live, I deeply desire to cheer others on, to pinpoint their dream and to help them step a little closer to it.

Grandpa, you worked hard. You were always doing something. You built, you created, you put in long, difficult hours at jobs that weren’t glamorous or spectacular. You did it for the love of family and the love of work. Even in your final days you tried to get out of bed. The work wasn’t done. My, how you worked. And you worked with joy because work wasn’t a curse to you. Getting up and going to a job was a gift. The ability to move and produce and create and contribute was a gift. And that’s what you saw work as, a way to contribute. Because of the life I saw you live, I deeply desire to work at something with all of my heart and think of work as a gift because that’s what it is.

Grandpa, you loved to laugh. Your jokes and stories were sometimes cheesy, but you were a dad; you were allowed at least 25,000 dad jokes. But you loved to laugh. In the past year, you went through health scare time and again, but I always knew you were going to be ok when you joked around with the nurses. When you got one of them to break their professional, serious looks with one of your whitty comebacks, I knew my grandpa was going to bounce back yet again. Remember when I set by your bed a couple of weeks before you died? You could barely talk, but you told me a joke. I wish I remembered it. Instead of paying attention to it, I was holding off happy tears because I was being given a gift: you. You loved to laugh. My, how you laughed. Because of the life I saw you live, I deeply desire to laugh. I desire to laugh when life is good and when I can barely speak. And in honor of you, I will also learn at least 25,000 cheesy jokes. You’re welcome, world.

Grandpa, you anticipated needs of others and you met them in the shadows of life. I’ve heard the stories. I’ve heard the people who suspect it was you who left them money when they needed it or offered a piece of equipment or showed up at the 11th hour to help with one need or another. You truly saw others around you. You noticed them. You listened to them with grace, care and compassion. You loved others well through what you did. And you helped others without many people, if any, knowing it was you behind the actions. You never needed applause. You only needed to help. Because of the life I saw you live, I deeply desire to live every day anticipating the needs of others and helping in the shadows of life.

Because of the life you lived.

This past tense seems cruel. It seems impossible, like I’m talking about someone else’s grandpa.

But because of the life you lived, I want to live every moment to the fullest. I want to embrace my family and welcome strangers. I want to cheer people on and work diligently at the gift God has given me. I want to laugh so hard I pee my pants a little. I want to anticipate the needs of others. I want to tell others how the life they are living is impacting my own.

Thank you, Grandpa. Thank you for the man you were to your family, friends and people you saw in passing. Thank you. I’m thankful to be part of your heritage.


Your granddaughter.

1 Comment

  • Patty September 24, 2016 at 2:55 am

    Thank you Kate for saying the things that I was unable to express verbally. You are a great author and Grandpa Berkey would be so proud of you. Love you.

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