Twenty-three years ago tonight, I faced my first true loss. I was 15 years old, and after a week long battle with cancer, my grandfather died. You read that correctly, it was only one week. While in retrospect I'm so thankful that he didn't have to endure suffering for long, we were all so very shocked and in no way prepared to say goodbye. He'd gone in on a Thursday for a routine operation and when they opened him him up, they discovered that not only did he have cancer, but it was so pervasive that they closed him up immediately and said that there was nothing that could be done. He never left the hospital. By Tuesday, only five days later, he was no longer able to communicate with us and on November 21, 1990, the night before Thanksgiving, he died.
Until then, I'd never had to face the loss of someone so close to me. It was difficult and when they told us grandchildren that we could each put something in the casket with him that reminded us of him, I made the obvious choice: a Three Musketeers bar. Every time I went over to their house, without fail there was a Three Musketeers bar involved. Knowing that they were my favorite, and being a pretty fun guy, he always made sure that there was one in the candy jar for me. On the rare occasion that they didn't have one in the house, he'd drive me up to the Cork 'N Bottle to get one. Every time. Ever since then, those bars of yummy deliciousness make me think of him and of a happy childhood.
While I loved him to pieces, I wasn't nearly as close to him as I was to my other grandparents. I clearly remember falling apart at Grandpa's funeral and my Granddad wrapping me in a big hug. I'm not kidding, if we drove down to Greenwood right now, I could show you the exact spot that I was standing in. I was crying for the loss of Grandpa for sure, but I also couldn't imagine my life one day without Grandma and Granddad. Sadly, as it has a way of doing, life moves on and I've now lost both of them as well.
All of this came to mind today because at work we received the sad news that one of our oldest and dearest volunteers died this morning. There was a gentleman who for years was the coordinator of all of the seniors who volunteer with the kids at our school. It's kind of neat; they come in once or twice a week and work one on one with students who can benefit from a little extra time. It really makes a difference in the lives of the children, and it brings the volunteers joy and a sense of purpose as well. Hearing that Bob died today, sweet, grandfatherly Bob, well, it really shook up some of the staff members.
As I was listening to all of them share remembrances when they passed through the office, I was struck by just how many lives he touched. So many lives were made better by his love and his influence, and that's just at our little school. Who knows how many more lives he touched within his family, his church, his circle of friends...it could be hundreds! I was thinking of him, which in turn reminded me of my grandparents and the legacy that they left. They are sorely missed every single day. It made me wonder, what kind of a legacy am I working on? If I were to die today, what would be said about me? Would I have touched many lives for good? Truly served them and made them better? Or would people just think, "Yeah, I think she made cookies once..."
I don't have the answers to my questions. This post doesn't wrap up all neat and tidy with some fabulous epiphany. It just leaves me thinking, and wondering if I'm making the best use of the time that I've been given.