Lead article from the September 2015 bulletin, online now.
The past couple weeks have been both difficult and joyous. I had to experience both death and marriage, and it's amazing how they both affect you so similarly when you start to reflect on them.
We laid my grandmother to rest this month. This was not unexpected; in fact it was somewhat of a joyous occasion. We all knew she had been suffering greatly the last several years and was really looking forward to being reunited with her husband and children in heaven. What makes this difficult for me is two things. First of all, between my wife and me, she was the last grandparent we had left. You don't realize how much your grandparents mold your life as a child. What I wouldn't give to have a couple hours with those that already passed on, just to ask questions about their lives and the history of our families. Grandparents hold such a wealth of information that cannot be fully appreciated until we are adults and have our own families.
The second reason this is difficult in that you don't always fully appreciate someone's life until they are gone. I want to share a little bit of information from her obituary that never hit me until someone put it in writing. She had 17 children, 33 grandchildren, and 55 great grandchildren. This is so amazing to me that this one man and one woman created this huge family that just continues to grow even after they are gone. That is 105 lives created due to two people choosing to say yes to each other in marriage and start a family. Then later in the obituary we get to this: She was preceded in death by five of her children. Yes she lost five children, four before they reached their first birthday. I cannot imagine losing a single child, and she had to experience that horrible loss five times. This woman didn't spend her early parenting years running kids from activity to activity or figuring out what smartphone or gadget she should buy them for Christmas. No, she spent her years figuring out how to feed these children and hoping that there would be a little bit of money to put something/anything under the Christmas tree. But regardless of all that, I heard over and over again throughout that weekend about how generous she was and how faithful of a woman she was. Through all her hardship and struggles she never gave up hope and never let it interfere with her love of her Catholic faith. She must have had thousands of opportunities to turn her head to her faith but instead she chose to lean on God in those hard times. The priest talked about how she was always at the church praying and helping out in whatever capacity she could. I never knew she was as faithful as she was, I chalk this up as another lost opportunity to ask a ton of questions. Let us embrace our families while we can and not let the trials of life interfere with what's truly important.
Now let’s jump to a more joyous topic. I had the honor of attending my sister-in-law’s wedding this last weekend in Ossian, Iowa. I wouldn't expect that you heard of it; this is a stereotypical small town in Iowa surrounded by farms and corn fields as far as you can see. What makes this so special is the family that I had the honor of experiencing while I was there. My now brother-in-law's family was so unbelievably welcoming and joyous about this occasion. I heard stories and got to see reunions between people that hadn't seen each other in years. I got to see a proud father share his son's wedding with an entire community. It was truly amazing. My wife commented several times on how she didn't run into a single person that wasn't super welcoming. That family welcomed everyone near and far into their arms this weekend. It pains me to know that my new brother-in-law has no interest in his family farm or moving back to that little community down in Iowa that cares so much about him. But I also realize that people change but our families never do. Regardless of where his life leads him and his new family, that family down in Iowa could not be prouder of him.
It's interesting how a funeral and a wedding can generate such similar emotions and reflections. But unfortunately it takes a major occasion for us to make the time to get together with our families and share those stories that molded us into the people we are today. Don't wait until it's too late to ask questions or share stories with your family. Those are the things that carry on long after you do. What will your legacy be?