What does love look like? While love is different for all of us and can change based on the moment, we can still recognize it when we see it for someone else.
I was in 6th grade, 11 years old, when my grandfather died. It was October 16, 1970. He was a carpenter and died of a head injury when his scaffold was hooked by a crane and tipped. He was 53 years old. I remember being told then that he knew he would die on that job. What I didn’t learn until recently was that he knew what DAY he would die.
Believing that he would die soon, my grandfather completed all the outstanding repair jobs on their home so my grandmother wouldn’t have to worry about them. My grandmother’s birthday was October 22nd. Since he would not be there for her birthday, he bought her gift and gave it to her early. (My mother and I found the card tucked safely away in the same box with the guest registry from his funeral.) He did not want her to be without her birthday gift from him. My great-grandmother was living with them at the time because the weather was turning cold and she did not have central heating or running water in her little house. The night of October 15th she said her good-nights and that she would see them in the morning. Grandpa told her no she wouldn’t, this would be the last time she would see him. My grandfather normally rose and left for work before anyone else was awake. The next morning he woke my grandmother early and told her he wanted to hold her one last time. He was killed a couple hours later.
Like I said, I never knew this side of the story until recently. I knew my grandparents loved each other. I remember how devastated my grandmother was when he died. I can’t even imagine how she felt every time he told her he was going to die soon, or the fear she must have felt when he left for work that morning. How many prayers did she say asking God to bring him home again?
How many of us wish we knew the day of our death so we could prepare ourselves and our loved ones? We could make sure all the bills were paid and the financial accounts/files in order. We could see that the important chores were completed. We could buy birthday and/or Christmas gifts for our loved ones; perhaps write letters telling them how much they mean to us or take them on that once-in-a-lifetime vacation we’re always talking about but never getting around to.
Unfortunately, even if we are told by our doctor that we only have so long to live we don’t truly know the day of our death. Doctors are human and it’s only a guess. You can be given six months and live two years. So, what I’m saying is, perhaps we should live every day as if it’s our last. I know that’s become a cliché, but it’s true. Don’t quit your day job and spend all your money on a world cruise, but do tell your friends and family how much you love them. Let go of grudges. Spend time making memories. That’s what will stay with them after you’re gone.
Move forward 34 years, the evening of October 15, 2004. My grandmother loses her balance reaching to pick up something she dropped on the floor of her room at the nursing home. She falls and strikes her head. Early the next morning, October 16, 2004, my grandmother passes away.