Twenty years ago today, my grandfather passed away. It was a sad time for the whole family, but he'd been sick - in the hospital - for a month, and by the end we knew it was inevitable.
He was the first of my grandparents to die.
But when I had time to reflect on that summer I found that God had been at work in my life in ways I hadn't realized.
There were little things - like the fact that I read two books that summer that dealt with death of grandparents. I didn't read these with any anticipation of my grandfather's death, but they prepared me by letting me see how others dealt with this loss.
Another thing that summer was that I had to go to physical therapy for my knee. This seems completely unrelated, but I went as an outpatient at the hospital. While there I saw many older people, who were having physical therapy as a result of strokes or other ailments. I got used to seeing older people in hospitals. Later when my grandfather was admitted to the hospital and we went to visit him, although I didn't like seeing him looking frail and connected to tubes and monitors - I was not surprised or shocked by it. One of my younger brothers was, and found it very difficult to stay in the hospital room. My experience at physical therapy had helped prepare me for it.
On my last visit to him, before he fell into a coma, he had a respirator tube in and was unable to speak. So, I did all the talking. I didn't know what to say - so I prayed for help. And to this day I don't regret a single thing I said or wish I had said anything extra.
I learned a lot from my Irish-German grandfather. And I wish he could have lived to meet his great-grandchildren, but I try to pass on to them things I learned from him, like how to see all the colors in the sky, and how to enjoy a good story. If he were still alive he'd be turning 101 in a couple of weeks.
Rest in peace, Grandpa