Today I received a letter from my Grandpa.
Which wouldn’t really be that significant, except for the fact that he passed away on Sunday.
Naturally being a storyteller, I tried to find the narrative behind it. Grasping the unopened envelope as I walked out of the post office, my imagination ran wild. Did he know his death was imminent? Would there be a letter inside expressing some kind of cryptic message meant to inspire or encourage me?
As you might have guessed, the answer is ‘no.’
He wrote about how my Aunt set up a hummingbird feeder on the back porch. About the pleasant, sunny weather they’d been having. And about a drive he took around Spanaway Lake Park. He expressed happiness at a ‘deal’ my Dad and I made last December. (My Dad paid off one of my student loans in exchange for not packing craft beer in my suitcase to Morocco and a promise to attend at least 12 masses this summer, given my recent lack of faith. I didn’t even know my Dad told him about it.) He wished me a Happy St. Patty’s Day and good tidings as my service in the Peace Corps comes to an end.
A simple letter expressing his appreciation for the everyday things in life. He honed into and sought beauty in all things. Something I strive to do every day.
He closed it by saying, “Grateful for your service to our country.”
That’s exactly who my Grandpa was.
Grateful. Humble. Hardworking.
In light of his passing, I’ve had a lot of time to think about my place in this world. How I fit in it. How I got to be where I am today. Where I’m going. And perhaps, most importantly about the people that helped pave this path for me.
My parents obviously played a huge role, but so did my grandparents.
College, the Peace Corps, opportunity- none of it would have been possible without the hard work of my Grandpa and his father before him. A Slovak immigrant, my great grandfather arrived on Ellis Island penniless, having gotten his belongings stolen on the ship. He worked as a tailor to support his family. My Grandpa himself usually worked two jobs. My Dad often says, “If I worked half as hard as my father…” And it’s true. My Grandpa knew a lot about struggle and loss, but he also knew about love and compassion. A life well lived.
Doubtless his legacy helped shape me. He’s a part of me.
In fact, I like to think that we’re made up of all kinds of bits and pieces of the people we encounter in life. Good and bad. We carry them with us. Where ever we go.
So I’ll close this by saying that I’m grateful to my Grandpa for his service to me, my family, and the world in general.
Rest in peace.