My grandfather died a month ago. He was a good man and his death broke my heart. I am the oldest grandchild on my mom’s side of the family so I had the most time with him, and the benefit of his younger years so we were companions, he and I.
I think about him a lot. He lived quite a remarkable life and would often tell me what happy memories he had when he looked back. I’m glad for that. I’m glad because it wasn’t actually particularly joyful, in fact, painful- very much so, for him- and yet he remembered the happiness.
I had the very great honor of writing his obituary (which you can read at the bottom of this post) and of speaking at his wake, but I had the even greater honor of being his “Alicia Darling” and his “#1 girl”.
At his wake/funeral, the entire family came together, differences aside to hug, and talk, and hang out. It’s funny how, when you’re apart from cousins for so long, separated by age, and distance, you come together and it feels like family. Oh, and we have differences. Check out the picture below of the Nolan grandchildren. Can you tell who is a model? Who is a Christian? Who is a Navy SEAL? Who is transgender? Who owns a successful business? Who has autism? Who is a cowboy? Who is a singer? Who just graduated college? Who just got out of jail? Who cares?! My grandpa didn’t. He loved us all equally and gave his time, his money, his help to any one of us who needed it. I was filled with joy to see such a wonderful legacy of one of the most significant and influential men of my life.
My grandpa is the reason I became a journalist. There’s a whole story behind that! He took me to Disney when I was 12 and his wallet fell out on Space Mountain. He took me to Cooperstown because he wanted me to love baseball as much as he did (alas, no). He came to all my school concerts. He paid for my braces. He brought me dolls in their international costumes from every country he ever visited. My grandpa frequently sent me clippings from the newspaper in the mail with articles he thought I’d enjoy. My grandpa taught me to love and understand classical music. He heavily shaped who I am, and when he died, who he was in life became that much more pronounced in me. I’m proud of that.
And as does happen when a good man dies, the people he left behind are grieving and finding a way to move ahead with his absence, knowing that we’ll see him again on the other side, when our own times come. Praise God.“Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope.” 1 Thessalonians 4:13
All that being said- watching your family members grieve is a really difficult, stressful, bonding process. It’s one thing to work through your own sadness, but to see pain in the eyes of your parents, and your siblings, to watch them burst into tears randomly as the thought of grandpa flickers across their minds – it’s brutal all around.
Homer was a huge support. I mean- over.the.top. He shone like the glittering, radiating rockstar he is. My Grammy wanted to commemorate the entire event and Homer dutifully took pictures, stepping in front of grieving relatives, with tears streaming down his own face, capturing the most painful and poignant moments a family can share. He held me as I wept on my bed the day my grandpa died. He listened to my stories. He snapped the picture below so I could have a “4 generations” picture with my Grammy even though we’d all been crying 2 minutes beforehand.
Homer made a very difficult experience bearable- but not just for me, for my whole family. Many of them had never met him because we’ve been living in Utah for so long. He came in an won hearts left and right with his tact, grace, strength, humor, kindness, friendship and the natural way he puts people at ease with his outgoing charm. I needed him, and I didn’t have to say that even one time. He knew, and he was there.
In the end, my grandfather died as he’d wished- at a ripe, old age, at the end of a life filled with rich experiences, surrounded by his wife and children who were holding him, singing, praying and loving on him.
Death comes to us all, but not all of us truly live. ~Me
His was a life well lived, and it was a good death.