Sunday, May 20, 2012

A Life Well Lived

Grandpa Mathies. Where do I even begin? My heart has been aching for the last three weeks, and I honestly don't think it will ever fully go away. I have never experienced a loss so great, so painful. 

Grandpa had a hip replacement several months ago and was expected to recover. He was able to walk again with his walker, and couldn't wait to resume driving so he and grandma could return to a normal lifestyle. My family looked forward to having them stay at the cottage this summer (Josh and my current home, just down the road from my parents' farm) and I was even pushing the idea of a trip to Myrtle Beach in the fall. Just like we had all done together many times in the last twenty-one years.

Life rarely goes the way you think it will. Three weeks ago Grandpa was suddenly admitted to the hospital for pain in his chest and difficulty breathing. As the days progressed the doctors diagnosed him with cancer, and kidney and heart failure. It was awful. Nobody wants to watch someone you love suffer. Grandpa was so brave though. He did his best to be strong for my family, especially for my grandma. We were all able to say goodbye in our own way. And finally, on May 13, 2012, Grandpa passed on peacefully in his sleep.

I still can't really grasp the fact that he's gone. My grandpa was my hero. The best moments of my life involved him. It started in the beginning, with our family's frequent trips to Myrtle Beach, the cottage, Pennsylvania, the C.N.E., musicals, and even a Caribbean cruise for his 80th birthday. Their house was enchanting, especially as a child. A big spiral staircase, hidden rooms, a forested backyard. Many wonderful days were spent there.

I was an anxious kid. There was always something I was afraid of, whether it was a tornado, a meteor striking the Earth, or my fear of having some terrible, rare illness. But being around him and his calm, steady presence always brought me peace. I felt so safe with him. So protected, like everything was always going to be okay. 

He was a popular doctor in the Kitchener/Waterloo region. Everybody, and I literally mean everybody, knew him. Not only was he incredible at his practice, but he cared so much for people and their personal lives. I remember every single time we went out for dinner, people would line up at our table to talk to grandpa. He was delighted to see everyone. Introducing them to his family, inquiring about theirs… he never got annoyed. I never even saw him angry once.

When my sisters and I were being terrible, he would just laugh and call us to come sit on his knee. "I have something to tell you. I want to tell you a story." He'd go on with a riveting tale of when he was a boy, or a doctor, or about our ancestors who escaped Russia to come live in Canada. And we'd settle down and behave, every time.

He was such a leader. He had an incredible medical career. He helped found Birchcrest, the lakeside community where Josh and I now live. He was passionately involved in charity organizations as well as his church. He was the most hard-working, generous, kind, gentle, faithful, caring, and humble man I have ever known. He inspired everyone who knew him. He loved my grandma dearly every single day for the last fifty-six years.

I am so proud to be his granddaughter. Over the last couple days at his visitation and funeral I had the privilege of meeting hundreds of people who loved him. We all shared stories, cried, and laughed together. Two major hospitals in the city even lowered their flags to half mast in honour of his life. I am so thankful for the twenty-one years I got to spend with this man. However, I desperately wish there were more. 

Grandpa, thank you for being my role model. Thank you for being a loving example of what family should be like. Our family's foundation is solid because of you. As my sister Nicole said, "thank you great grandfather for teaching my grandpa how to be a man, who taught my dad, who taught me how to choose one." Josh and I, as well as my sisters and their future husbands, will continue your legacy with our children and their children after that.

We're going to miss him terribly. Things won't ever be the same, but there is comfort in knowing that we'll see him again someday. For now, all we can do is continue his footsteps. 

I love you Grandpa. 

1 comment:

  1. Taylor, this post was absolutely beautiful. You're such a great writer, and you could tell this was right from the heart. Your grandpa seemed like SUCH an amazing man. I've said this time and time again, but keep your head up girl! Try to remember all the great times you had with him, and all the joy and knowledge he brought to your life! Love you <3