On being Thankful

I was over at Sew Passionate, this morning reading a blog post about making some Ballard inspired chalkboards. If you haven’t seen them yet, you really should check ‘em out…they are adorable! Any who, as I sat reading the post and seeing the photos of her father’s workshop I noticed that I had a smile on my face. Not a huge, this is funny smile…a soft, truly happy smile. Soon after, I began to cry.

You see, three months ago, I lost my Grandfather, and the world lost a very special man. While he was 85 years old, his death was completely unexpected. He was a health and fitness buff that made his appearance at the local gym not once, but twice daily! He could weight lift more than men half his age, and prided himself on it. While this part of his life was important to him, it was by no means related to what he did for a living.

My Grandfather spent his working years cutting. First as a skilled meat cutter (something he continued to do as a hobby with beef from the family farm, or a prize slab of venison after hunting season), and lastly a wood worker (as a home business he had with my Grandmother). He was a creative man, with talents that made the world around him a beautiful one. He spent many hours in his wood shop, and I can happily say that I spent many hours out there with him….by his side, playing in sawdust, watching as he meticulously cut, drilled, glued and sanded. As I got older, I was intrigued by the process. I remember watching to see how he arrived at his final product. So many times, I was amazed at the way his mind worked. He could come up with ways to do things that most would never imagine.

This different mind of his didn’t only apply to his work. He was a different man. One who loved to give, but had no remorse for those who take. He was a family man to the end. If anyone ever crossed a Fred (my maiden name), you had better look out. He was the BEST sports fan a kid could ever ask for. The Saturday before his stroke, he drove an hour to our small town to watch my 5 year old play a soccer game. He would arrive early, cheer hard, and be the last one to leave (but not before he congratulated the hard work and gifted them with Snickers bar and cash…what more could a kid ask for?). This was the routine of he and my Grandmother for every sporting event of every grandchild. I am so thankful that he was here long enough to experience it for a few of his great-granddaughter’s. Throughout my life, this difference was perceived in a multitude of ways. It wasn't until his last week of life that I realized who he truly was….and it’s really quite simple. You do good by people, and people will do good by you. To some, he may not have seemed to have been the best at forgiveness, but I believe it’s because he felt so deeply, which also meant that he hurt deeply.

Following the unfortunate stroke that ultimately took his life, he spent a week of torture in numerous hospitals. It was an emotional roller coaster for everyone involved. A strong, proud, man whose body has been part of everything that has ever meant anything to him, now stuck in a hospital bed, with a sound mind, and depending on others to do nearly everything for him. Happy to have lived an incredible life, he was ready now ready for it to be over. For one week, he stuck true to his family values and humored us as we exhausted all possibilities for surgeries and cures. But, at the end we made the most difficult decision a family can make, and returned the favor by telling the team of doctors to let him go in peace. I pushed my Grandmother’s wheelchair into his room and we each took our places on either side of his bed. It was then that we told Grandpa he got his last wish. The doctors would no longer be poking and prodding, he could now just, “go to sleep”, as per his request. Before he went, we were given a gift. A short period of time where we could talk about memories, thank him for all he had done, and joke, as our family often does. We listened to country music, and we cried. As a family, we experienced something that no family should ever have to experience. I held my Grandfather’s hand as he took his last peaceful breath, and I am thankful to have been able to be there for him.

So, those memories of his wood shop, the sporting events, holidays, weddings, babies, they are all so dear to my heart. And I am thankful for the memories that that post brought back for me.