This is an excerp from the eulogy I wrote for my grandfather who died a few years ago. It is his birthday on May 8th. He taught us so much about love. This is a long post which I tried to edit, but it was too difficult to delete much–he meant so much to me. This post is dedicated to him.
Really love by embodying love
This tune announced the arrival of my grandfather since I was a little girl. In fact, he whistled it every night coming home from work when my uncle, my mother and my aunt where growing up. He’d come down the pathway to the side door of the house on and just as he passed the kitchen window, he’d whistle.
They, as we did a generation later, felt elated by this sweet melody because it meant my grandfather’s loving attention had arrived. It literally meant love has arrived. As far as I understand, there is an abundance of love in heaven. But when my grandfather arrived Home three days ago, I am quite certain even the love in heaven multiplied exponentially.
Love has arrived.
I think my grandfather had a very important mission for his86 years on earth. His mission was to clean. But I am not just talking about cleaning spots out of clothes at United Dry Cleaners. I am talking about cleansing his soul and cleansing all our souls. And he did this by embodying love. Today, I want to share with you a glimpse into how my grandfather embodied love in his life. And tell you a bit of how this legacy, starting from his own parents, touched the lives of so many people.
The great thing about love like this is that it is not limited
Quite the contrary, the more you share love the more it grows. It’s like a cake full of candles, with one lighter, you can light as many candles as you want: the flame multiplies. This is how I think of Grandpa’s love. Even though Grandpa brought his love to heaven, and he can still love us from where he is, AND he left an abundance of love here in each one of us. The love that he shared will continue to grow for decades to come as we parent and grandparent our own children. There is evidence that it is working because all of the great grandchildren are kind hearted. For example, my little cousin Aiden, who I think is a spitting image of my grandfather knows this joy of giving. He would always come with a craft or drawing to give to his Papa Tony. A few weeks ago, when Grandpa was sleeping a lot Aiden was waiting for him to wake up to present his drawing du jour. Grandpa would make a little noise and Aiden would run for his paper, only to find that grandpa didn’t fully wake up. His persistence is exemplary, because this happened over and over and Aiden would get just as excited each time finally rewarded by Papa Tony really waking up and fussing over his picture.
Grandpa wanted us to remember to do the right thing, because over and over he repeated his own father’s words: “Always try to do the right thing.” Even two weeks ago when Aunt Mary said to him, “Dad, I am so sorry you don’t feel well, is there anything I can do?” My grandfather was still imparting this wisdom. He answered, “Just do the right thing.”
Thank you God for another day so that I may help someone
Another way Grandpa expressed his love was by helping people. My grandfather loved to help people. His daily mantra was “Thank you God for another day so that I might help someone.” Isn’t this beautiful? Even if he didn’t feel good, he said this everyday, out loud as he got out of bed or pulled on his pants. And he did not wait passively for someone to arrive needing help. He asked and he offered. He went out of his way to make sure people felt like they could count on him. He would tell his sister Florence, “Call me if you need anything, call me if the kids need anything.”
He went often to the senior center and barely being able to walk securely himself, he held the door for a man with a walker as he and Aunt Mary were leaving. Do you know, he walked the man all the way to his car and helped him in? He was so generous like this. Grandpa’s helping was also manifested in fixing thing. He could fix almost everything. He fixed all of the machines at the dry cleaners, he fixed our cars, our appliances, our doorknobs, our sinks. He loved to figure out how to fix things and make them run better.
He loved beauty and expressed this. Recently, Mom was sleeping over and Grandpa came into her room in the middle of the night and was telling how beautiful she looked tonight and tucking in the covers around her. One day when we were playing rummy, he said: “Jodi, Ted’s sister Cathy is so beautiful.” I think he saw holiness in us that sometimes we couldn’t see in ourselves.
In the last ten years, the Alzheimer’s had him repeatedly playing the same few songs on the harmonica and the piano. Like “Silent night.” The song must have had special significance to him, since it stayed in his head despite his clouded memory. Sometimes he would even murmur, “sleep in heavenly peace” or just “heavenly peace” as he walked around the house to bring himself comfort.
Laughter is the best medicine
One of Grandpa’s greatest loving legacies was his sense of humor. He put people at ease immediately with his one liners, and kept them laughing. Like, “That food looks good enough to eat!” “ I’d better sleep with my glasses on so I can see my dreams.” “I’m pretty good shape for the shape I’m in”, “Is that a left handed spoon?”, “Did you get a haircut or did you get them all cut?”, “At least I’m not old and crabby. I’m old but not crabby!” and “You’d better answer that it might be the telephone?” If you didn’t respond with an appreciative giggle, he nudge you and repeat the joke to make sure you got it. Grandpa loved to laugh. Whenever he made a mistake, instead of getting frustrated he’d just laugh at himself. He did a belly giggle with is tongue between his teeth like the big kid that he was. He made so many funny mistakes that this kept him chuckling. His kids definitely acquired this sense of humor. When they were caring for him at the end, they would joke about who was doing what. If Aunt Mary was giving him a shot, she’d say “Dad, Joanne’s giving you a shot now.” Or vise versa, someone would be feeding him ice cream and across the room, Uncle Mike would yell, “Dad it’s Mike, I’m giving you ice cream.”
Grandma and Grandpa shared a beautiful relationship. He was deeply appreciative of my her. He’d call her “My bride”, saying “Isn’t she beautiful, she’s so beautiful, I love her so much, she does everything for me.” And she did do everything for him. My grandmother gave him ten extra years through her care in checking his blood sugar, giving him healthy food, keeping him company. She gave him joy. Grandma and Grandpa never called each other Tony and Nan. They called each other “Hun” Always! My cousins and I used to joke about it when we were little. We thought they both had the same first name. Even when they argued they called each other “Hun”. They were so devoted to loving one another. They were always together and Grandpa did not want to go anywhere without her. He’d miss her dearly when she went out shopping or to the hairdresser, asking after her. He felt so safe in her care. She worked so hard and she, too knew how to do it right.
You’re probably thinking, Jodi is just saying “love love love love love.” Yep, I am. This is the only way I can sum up my grandfather’s life. Love love love love love. Wouldn’t it be great if we could all sum up our life that way?
The last moments of Anthony Michael Julian’s life were beautifully peaceful with his family’s arms around him. Now, I’m imagining Grandpa putting his arms around all of us, always staying near. Whenever we left a party, we would kiss Grandpa to say goodbye. He would always correct us. “Never say goodbye it’s too final. Just say ‘So long’ or ‘See you later’”. “Goodbye” to my grandfather meant disconnection to those he loved. And he knew that even when we left each other physically, we can still stay connected to him. Even now we can feel our worth in his eyes and I don’t think we’ll ever keep those one liners from popping into our head in certain situations. I read that the phrase “ so long” was adapted into English from the Arabic word, “Salaam” meaning peace. How perfect is that? Peace. “So long grandpa, see you later in heavenly peace.”