On March 23rd, we had a big snow storm that took us by surprise in the amount of snow we received. A total of 17" accumulated in Green Bay, Wi, which is where I live. While my husband snow blowed (twice) and I took silly pictures of my girls on my iPhone, my grandparent's house was engulfed in flames just 100 miles away. I had no idea. Nobody did. Not until my sister phoned me around 3 or 4 pm telling me she had some bad news.
She cried and told me no one was supposed to know yet - are you kidding me? You don't get a call like that and not immediately start shaking and screaming. Something exploded in my grandparent's garage and they could not find my Grandpa. MY Grandpa. My just-turned-80-year-old-strong-as-an-ox Grandpa. Don't tell me that they can't find Grandpa. He was just out back in the junkyard or maybe gone to buy a part. Don't tell me that they can't find Grandpa. Maybe someone saw the house in flames and picked him up to keep him out of harm's way. NOT my Grandpa.
My mom was on her way with my uncle and I must have called her cell a million times. The roads were awful going up there and I don't think I could have felt more helpless. During the time I was calling her, I got the answer I did not want to hear - they found Grandpa, and he is gone. GONE. What? What does that mean? I heard what she said, but the words didn't make sense. Like, gone. That's it. No chance to say goodbye, no chance to give him a kiss on the forehead or give him a big hug. Nope. Gone.
In my heart, I knew Grandma was ok, but I had to ask. She was ok. Not harmed. But Grandpa - the love of her life for 60 years, the father of all 9 of her children, grandpa to over 20 grandchildren and great-grandpa to 9 great-grandchildren - GONE. Their home of 20+ years - that was gone too.
I spent many weekends at Grandma and Grandpa's. Growing up it was a very safe, warm place. Grandpa kept a wood-burning stove going all winter and the sweet smell of the wood is something I've always found very comforting. The house itself is a tragedy. Grandpa leaving us is something I just didn't understand. WHY? Why my grandpa?
We had just celebrated his 80th Birthday 2 weeks prior in the very same garage he never made it out of. I had just seen him 4 short days before at my little Lucy's 3rd Birthday party here in Green Bay. Oh, how he loved watching and playing with the little ones.
MY grandpa, you see, he always saw the joy in every day things. He found HAPPINESS in his hobby of fixing cars and helping people with their cars and anything else with a motor and ignition. He found HAPPINESS in serving the Lord, and was happiest when his family was in church with him.
The thing is, I was a mess. Didn't sleep for days. So many warm wishes of comfort POURED into my email box, Facebook page, mail box. I have never felt so much love. But my Grandpa - MY Grandpa was still gone.
During the wake, my little Marlee (who is just shy of 2 years old) showed me that I need not mourn the LOSS of a great man, but should learn to CELEBRATE the life of someone I was so blessed and fortunate to not only know, but call MY Grandpa.
You see, Marlee is SHY. She is nervous around strangers and cries at the checkout because she doesn't know the cashier. Marlee will hide her face in my chest when we see relatives we don't see everyday. At my grandpa's wake, my grandparent's priest (Father Joe) stopped by Jorge (my husband), Lucy, Marlee and me. Marlee nearly jumped out of Jorge's arms and threw her arms around Father Joe's shoulders. For some people, they might see this as a little girl who simply mistook him for someone she knew. Oh no, sweet friends. MY little girl knows very well who she knows and who she does not. What happened in that moment, I really don't know. One thing I do know, is that after that ONE act -that ONE hug, something told me everything would be ok.
I struggle to find the right words to comfort my family when I am grieving just like they are. Now that the services are over, and we have all had to return to work, I was unsure how to move forward? The dust has settled on their destroyed home and all that's left is one huge pile of rubble that will have to be dug through to see if anything is salvageable (it's really not though).
One thing I truly believe, is that God gives us a purpose. We all have a reason of being here. For some, it is to cure the sick, or help the poor, or help people communicate better with our loved ones. My grandpa was sent here to show people (at least, this is what I believe) that true happiness isn't found in things, it isn't found in objects or large sums of money. True happiness is found in making the relationships with the people you love COUNT.
How can you help your neighbor today? Do they need their driveway shoveled? Do you have a relative or close family member that doesn't behave the way you think they should? Why? Are they struggling with something in their life? What about the angry customer who berates you because you put something on sale just 24 hrs after they made their purchase? What happened to them that morning that made them react that way? Do not assume you know why a person is behaving the way they are. The Lord asks us to serve others and do unto them as we would have done unto us. As my Grandpa always reminded all of us "Kill em with Kindness". I can't tell you how often I have taken his advice.
You don't have to go to church or read the Bible, or even be Christian to put these beliefs into practice. How can YOU leave a legacy that will make your children, grand-children and great-granchildren proud? I know one thing - and I'll leave you with this - every single day I remind myself that this day could be my last. I intend to live every day always wondering "WWJD" - "What Would Jud Do?"
Here is a link to my Grandpa's Obituary. The line at the wake went out the door for several hours. People flew in from out-of-state to attend services. On behalf of my family, thank you. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts. xo Angelica