I’ve stood in this very room and done this impossible thing that is a eulogy once before. Last time I was stunned, shell shocked, caught between relief and processing and the mercy of not yet having settled into that new reality.
This time I still face the inevitable inadequacy that comes with trying to communicate a lifetime worth of love in a few minutes. But this time is, of course, so very different too. This time I have the privilege of talking about a life that wasn’t cut short. We would never have been ready to say goodbye to my grandfather, to his stories, to his smile, to the incredible personal knowledge of our family and world history that left this world with his last breath. But we have the blessing of knowing that he was ready – to see my grandmother again. Hopefully to see my father as well.
I’ve had the unfortunate task of talking to Maddox and Tyson about death often in their short years – about how we miss those that have passed on but they still get to see us every day. That the challenge of moving forward after is ours, not that of those that have moved on.
But we still have our memories. For me, memories of a man who, when my mother dropped me off with him for the day one morning and forgot my shoes, carried me through the streets and into a shoe store to buy me a beloved pair of pink sneakers that I wore every day until they nearly fell apart. He never let my socked feet touch the ground that day. Memories of visits every Tuesday and Thursday before Hebrew school. Of family traditions. Of day trips to Annapolis with my grandparents and my cousins. Or some random diner an hour away, just because. Or Passover seders led with pride. Of his newborn children lying on his lap during their brises.
The cliché that life is short has been, as many of you know, a mantra of mine in recent years. And of course it is. In the grand scheme of things, it is infinitesimally – almost cruelly – short. A nearly invisible fraction of a moment in the grandness of eternity.
But it can also be long. It can, at least, begin to feel…long…to the person living it. With that length comes a readiness to move on – but also so much perspective. My grandfather was, at his core, a grateful man who knew that he was blessed by the love and acceptance of those around him. A man with enough distance from the day to day minutiae of life to write, in a book of memories to his grandchildren, regarding his “biggest argument” with his big sister Minnie, that “[w]e had many arguments but, when I look back in retrospect, they were trivial.”
My grandfather started his life in a bedroom with “a single bed with one other piece of furniture – a chair – and a window that overlooked [his] backyard.” He ended it in a different single bed, surrounded by as many chairs as fitted in the little room, people standing around them and pouring out into the hallway, me gasping on tears and déjà vu as he took his last breaths and then settled into peace.
His 96 years were too short for the rest of us but they were fully and beautifully lived by him. I will miss him every day with all of my heart, but I will move forward into my next 57 years with the benefit of his perspective on just how simply beautiful life can be when lived with humility and gratitude.