Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Life and Death

Over the weekend, Jackie's grandfather (her dad's dad), Jack, passed away.  He was 92 years old, passing 3 years and 1 day after his wife, Louise.  I always think of them together, Jack and Louise, and so, from my somewhat outsider perspective, it seems fitting that they are both, once again, in the same place.

Our life has taken us to a place where we don't live in close proximity with family, and one of the results is that we have less time to spend with family than what we would like.  That's a long way of saying that my memories of Jack (and Louise) are more limited, obviously, than Jackie's or her family.  I do remember on our wedding day having them honored as the longest married couple - 64 years (64!), incredible example of love, devotion, and commitment.  I remember the advice Jack gave on that day - "never go to bed angry," and how I always remember it, and how appreciative I am for its usefulness, its wisdom.  I remember helping Jack and Louise move from their house in Avilla and thinking that Jack had enough stuff in his garage to open his own hardware store.  And Jack had quite the sweet tooth.

I also remember how positive Jack always was, probably because it remains in such direct contrast to my general negativity.  But if there was ever living proof of making lemonade out of lemons, of always being thankful for what one has, and not regretful over what doesn't, Jack stands for that.  Over the past week, Jackie and I have been working on a picture slideshow for Jack's funeral, and it's amazing to witness another's history.   The man lived an amazing, and full, life...working for International Harvester for over thirty years, a volunteer firefighter, various charitable organizations, helped build a new church, a father, grandfather....but I will always think and define him first and foremost as a husband.  He's another great model (I have many in my life) of what it means to be a strong man, through family and partnership as a husband.

The year after Jackie and I were married, Jack and Louise celebrated their 65th Wedding Anniversary, and I remember how proud Jack was of the flowers, beautiful roses, that he gave Louise that year.  Louise passed away a couple of months later, and I remember Jack saying he was ready shortly thereafter.  They were best friends, spouses, partners through and through, and, three years later, it seems particularly fitting that they are together again. 

Death is always difficult, because we grieve the physical absence from our lives of those we love.  And while I will miss Jack, I am truly glad that he is with his affectionate sweetheart.  While I, and Jackie's family I'm sure, were grateful for the additional time we had with Jack, being able to celebrate his 90th birthday - having additional Christmases and Thanksgiving - it seems appropriate to think of him together with Louise, as opposed to separate; that seems to make the world right again.

Tomorrow is Jack's funeral, and we will all grieve the loss of a father, grandfather, friend, and loved one.  I will also celebrate a wonderful life, and his reunion with the love of his life.

"Yesterday is a memory, tomorrow is a mystery and today is a gift, which is why it is called the present.  What the caterpillar perceives is the end; to the butterfly is just the beginning. Everything that has a beginning has an ending. Make your peace with that and all will be well." - Buddhist Saying