We buried my grandpa today. I’ve never seen a more sad room full of people in my life. And, as predicted by everyone who knows me, I cried. And I cried a lot. Partly because of those around me who were in pain and partly because I would always remember today as the day when we finally said good bye to my grandpa.
The other night when we stayed at my dad’s house, my dad cried. I’ve only ever seen him cry one other time that I can remember in the past 24 years. And as he sat there telling Katie and I stories about our grandpa and what a good man he was, I thought about why he was a good man. It was not just because he did good things. It was the reason why he did the good things that made him good. Namely, because he belonged to Jesus. And as that thought hit me over and over and I struggled with how to explain this to my dad without seeming insensitive to his obvious pain and sense of loss, my dad stopped himself. “Your grandfather wouldn’t want you to be sad. He would want you to be happy.”
Why should we not be sad? When dealing with loss, sadness is a healthy response. Gone are the days of having to be strong for others who are too weak not to cry. Great strength comes from the ability to love and to feel and to grieve.
Sadness in and of itself is not a bad thing. I think its about the choice you make during that time. Whether you sit and wallow in your pain and misery or you choose to stand up and do something to make the world better. With so many things, I allow myself to get sucked in. I dig in my heels and decide that soon it won’t be so sad. Soon it won’t hurt so much. Soon. Soon. Always soon. Never now. It’s never, “now it won’t be so sad. Now it is better.” It isn’t that I simply linger there too long; I live in the comfortable numbness. I’ve earned squatter’s rights in the suspension where I’ve set up camp. And I don’t leave to explore alternatives because I’m afraid they’ll be worse than where I am now.
But this is different. Knowing my grandfather, the man he was, I cannot simply sit and get stuck in the pain. To succumb to the sadness would be too wrong. So I am consciously making a different choice. I mourn the loss of my grandpa who, by everyone’s account, was truly a good man. I cried yesterday, today and I’m sure there will be times in the future where I’ll feel the pangs of sadness and I’ll cry again. But because I believe that I am a better person simply by knowing him, I am determined to do something to make the world better. Honestly, I have no idea what I’m going to do. My grandpa’s legacy is filled with small acts of love for individuals. I think I’ll start there.
Today we buried my grandpa, but he’s far from gone. As one of my friends told her little sister at their mother’s funeral, “she’s not in there anymore.” It is only his body in the ground, not his soul or actions or legacy. Those are things we, the people who love him, are determined to preserve.