Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Reflections On Life, Love, Loss, and Family

My grandfather – Zaydie –passed away last week.

So I jumped on a plane and flew back to Michigan for the funeral.

To understand the importance of my Zaydie, I took only a small carry-on bag.  I have never been a light packer.  When I went on a trip with my grandparents about 10 years ago, we were away for 10 days and I think I took about eight pairs of shoes. 

But when it came down to it, I couldn’t really even think of what to pack.  I just wanted and needed to be with my family.

The last death in my immediate family was when my mother’s father passed away 20 years ago, and I don’t remember much of that.

The response toward my Zaydie’s death was overwhelming.  Because he fought in World War II and had three Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star, the Jewish War Veterans honored him with an honor guard, the largest anyone present had ever seen.

My Zaydie was a quiet and humble man.  He didn’t have an easy life, but he made the most of it, and always had a smile on his face.

The last time I saw him was the day before I moved to New York, and one of the hardest parts of moving was leaving my elderly grandparents, knowing that anything can happen.

The last time I talked on the phone with him, he said I love you, which he didn’t say often.  And I almost started crying and I had to get off the phone.  Maybe he knew.  Maybe I knew.  And maybe, somehow, we both knew.

The last several years had been difficult for him.  He lost many beloved friends and family members.  He had a bad reaction to anesthesia during a hernia operation, and he never quite came back from that.

The last stint in the hospital was from the Sunday before Thanksgiving to Thanksgiving Day.  He had a great week celebrating Thanksgiving and Chanukah with my family, when he was home.  My mom had told me a few hours before he died how much better he was doing. 

He and my grandmother were leaving the house and he collapsed and that was it.

He and my grandmother were married for almost 67 years. 

Though he was 91 and lived a full life, did not make this loss any easier.

It’s easy to feel robbed and cheated, to feel that even though he had 91 years – and I was so lucky to have three living grandparents for 28 years of my life – that we didn’t have enough time, that his death happened too fast, that we didn’t really get a chance to say goodbye. 

There is a hole in our hearts and lives that cannot be filled.

Once again, I am reminded of what is most important in life, and that is the people in our lives and the relationships that we build.  It’s not the things we have, but the company we keep.   

My aunt had this custom bobblehead - it looks just like them - made for my grandparents and it was supposed to be for their anniversary, December 22.  Because my grandfather passed away, we gave it to her Friday night.