I just wanted to make a quick little post because today my grandpa (a.k.a. “Papa” to me and a.k.a. “DooDa” to Grace) would have been 87 years old. But he’s been gone for almost five years now. Or has he?Some say that after a loved one passes, he or she will send you little signs occasionally. I’m not sure I believed that until my grandpa was gone. And he wasted no time in making it abundantly clear that he was okay, and that he would be watching us. After his funeral, the family gathered for your typical Irish wake. In the midst of beers and Bloody Marys and laughter and one-upping “Big Ed” stories, someone glanced toward the sky and saw a most unusual sight: a rainbow encircling the sun. Not a rain cloud for days, not even the smallest of haze…but still, a ring of color where none of us had ever seen one before. Coincidence? Maybe. An unusual scientific phenomenon? I’m sure it is. But at that moment, it felt like Gramps was finding his own way to crash the party.
I’ve experience other little reminders of him gently nudging me throughout the years. And gosh darn it if Big Ed didn’t send me one today, on his very birthday. I was at the grocery store in the salad dressing aisle. I was walking rather briskly, barely paying attention to the shelves, because I knew I did not need anything in this particular area. All of a sudden, my eyes deadlocked on a package of sesame breadsticks, and I stopped in my tracks…and smiled. You see, my grandpa ate these ALL the time…so much so that we nicknamed them “Papa Cookies.” I don’t ever remember taking notice of them at the store before (mostly because they are right next to things like capers and olives, which as a rule, I usually avoid). Without a second thought, I picked up the Papa Cookies, put them in my basket, and whispered to myself, “Happy Birthday, Papa.”
So today, yes, I am missing my grandpa, missing the fact that he’s not physically here. Missing the tree trunk arms that would wrap around me. Missing the way he would bite his lower lip and smile when he was proud of me. Missing the way he would always greet me with an enthusiastic “Hello Keeny!” as if I was still the little girl who couldn’t pronounce her own name. But if it has to be this way, and by nature’s law it does, I am happy to have our time together over things like rainbow enshrouded suns and unexpected lunches of sesame breadsticks.
I’ll leave you with a poem by Chief Tecumseh that my cousin Bill, my grandpa’s nephew and godson, suggested because it embodies the man my Papa truly was. If I did not know better, I would have thought my grandpa penned these words himself, because he certainly lived them:
So live your life that the fear of death can never enter your heart. Trouble no one about their religion; respect others in their view, and demand that they respect yours. Love your life, perfect your life, beautify all things in your life. Seek to make your life long and its purpose in the service of your people. Prepare a noble death song for the day when you go over the great divide.
Always give a word or a sign of salute when meeting or passing a friend, even a stranger, when in a lonely place. Show respect to all people and grovel to none.
When you arise in the morning give thanks for the food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies only in yourself. Abuse no one and no thing, for abuse turns the wise ones to fools and robs the spirit of its vision.
When it comes your time to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with the fear of death, so that when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way. Sing your death song and die like a hero going home.