A year ago today, my grandfather died. Anniversaries always seem to bring back particular memories of thoughts, feelings, and emotions of the day, but the reality was, the shock took place two weeks before it actually occurred. I still remember receiving the texts and only really comprehending a few of the key words: “fall…off a ladder…no chance of pulling through…” Part of the reason everything was so incomprehensible was because it was so unexpected; unlike many (or most) of his generation, he hadn’t spent the last 10 years noticeably weakening, where death would have been expected.
In reflecting on the last year, I can now see what the legacy was that he left. He left a legacy of being someone who walked everywhere, who ran out of gas even though he worked at a gas station, who drove a station wagon that was filled up with so much stuff (and don’t ask me what exactly was in there or how long it had been there!), who spent time at the American Legion, marched in the mile-long Memorial Day parades until hitting 90, and who, at the end of the day, could go home and fall asleep in a chair within 5 minutes. While many of his generation are seen as old, frail, or gradually fading away, he was the opposite. All of these little details, so basic and simple, and yet, when added together, they equal a life well lived. Perhaps the truly most important things we do in our lives are also the simplest.
Maybe he found “the secret” to a fulfilling life: to enjoy even the most basic, seemingly mundane activities of daily life. He understood what was important–he walked, worked, slept, and marched. And most of all, he lived.