Recently, my family lost my great-grandpop. He lived to be 98 years old.
When I first heard the news about Grandpop Clare's passing, I was saddened, yet glad that he had lived a long life. I knew his life was something worth celebrating, as he was a hard-worker, World War II veteran, avid golfer until his 90s, and dedicated friend, father, grandfather and great-grandfather. These things I knew.
What I didn't know what that he was married to my late great-grandmom for over 65 years. I can only hope to be that loving and patient one day.
What I didn't know was that he didn't hold a high school diploma, yet, his wonderful personality and work ethic carried him so far.
What I didn't realize was just how much life he put into his years. I know this sounds silly. Surely anyone who lives to be 98 must have a fulfilled life. But that's not always true.
Not everyone gets the chance to be on a T.V. show, get a hole in one at the age of 90, see the Eagles win the Super Bowl, win dancing competitions, fight in a world war, go on countless cruises all over the world, and raise a loving family. But Grandpop did all that and more. And he never failed to make you feel special.
Losing someone is weird because you're trying to celebrate his or her life, but at the same time, you're mourning the loss. I guess what I've learned over the past two weeks is that it's OK to do both. It's good to cry, laugh, reflect, and remember.
I'll never forget the visits to Grandpop's house. They were full of endless stories about family, the war, sports, vacations, and so on. He always had his latest crossword puzzle book laying out, as well as the book he was currently reading. As someone who loves literature and loves thinking, I can only hope that I'll be that sharp one day.
That's the thing about Grandpop. He never let his age define him. He put the life into his years, even when his hearing wasn't the best and he finally gave in to getting a cane and walker. Because he lived his life to the absolute fullest, he had plenty of interesting stories and memories to share. I think this is what life is really about. Growing up, my brother and I always said if we had as many funny stories and memories as our great grandparents then we would be content.
So, while Grandpop's passing is a time of mourning and celebration, I've also looked at it as a reminder. In the end, it's all about the memories. Make sure you put the life into your years so you can look back in peace, knowing that your memories and legacy will live on for far longer than you can imagine.