As I’ve matured, mortality has started to have more depth of meaning. Each time someone I know dies, it cements the realization that life does have an end and we cannot know the day nor the hour of its arrival. I have found myself much more aware of the need to be ready for the true purpose of my life, to reach heaven. At each discovery of death, I have this intense and anxious moment of prayer toward heaven, asking that the dearly departed will reach God as quickly as possible.
My Grandpa died last week and while I know that death can be the most beautiful and most important part of our existence, it doesn’t take away the need to mourn the death of someone in my life. Grief is hard to understand and for me personally, it has come in waves. I also want to celebrate and remember the life of the person, to verify my own experience with him, process the life of my grandpa and put his life in the context of my own.
As a granddaughter, I think I have to good fortune to see the best parts of my grandpa; a generation removed, I have space to see how his life impacted mine through my mom. I am blessed that he passed on some of these things.
Heritage. My grandpa was a first generation American. His parents came over from Macedonia and he didn’t speak any English until he went to school and was forced to pick it up. Every school project I had about family history, I interviewed my Grandpa about his, my family history. I feel lucky that my history is so intriguing and that I had the opportunity to discuss it with him many times. I believe that a lot of my grandpa’s other qualities and characteristics came from this upbringing that is so different from his future generations. He told me that he started the school year with two white shirts, two white pairs of socks and two pairs of jeans and by the end of the year they were too short, too tight and brownish instead of white. I also remember him talking about how he was so excited when he would go to a friend’s house and have hamburgers with cheese slices because at home, on a self-sufficient farm, they had “farm to table” style meals of for example, rabbit stew that his mom would work on and cook all day – this kind of meal was foreign to him!
Garlic. Grandpa loved it and so do I. I don’t think there’s a Stayanoff that doesn’t use garlic in the kitchen and usually, the more, the better. Grandpa was always, in my estimation, a great cook and food was important to any gathering. Eating a meal together happened often at his home and I have lots of memories of his old home with the blue carpet and gas stove and him cooking over the stove and leaning on the island to chat. He had the best homemade vinaigrette dressing I have ever tasted. Naturally, there was garlic in the dressing too. Usually, grandpa had some older style music playing as well. Lest I leave it out, I learned how to make the “world famous slug-o-burgers” from Grandpa as well.
Frugality. Again, I don’t think there’s a Stayanoff that isn’t frugal nor one that keeps anything extra in the house. I am incredibly grateful to my Grandpa for passing down his frugality to my mother so I in turn could learn good spending habits. As a financial advisor, I see the true value in living below your means and not only in order to save for retirement, but also to buy what really has meaning and value to you. It’s also thanks to Grandpa that I had some savings bonds to use for my first year of college.
Stubbornness. We all have faults, but some faults can also be a strength. Grandpa stuck to his guns and I like to think I do to, and I have a strong inclination I get this trait from my grandpa through my mom.
Faith. While my grandpa and I never talked a lot about faith, I always knew him to faithfully attend mass each Sunday. I am grateful that he converted to Catholicism and that I was raised Catholic and that we were able to share mass together from time to time. There are two times in my life when I remember my Grandpa talked ‘passionately’ (in his own way) about his faith. During one of my school interviews with him, he mentioned that the only thing that really matters in this life is faith in God. At another instance, he talked to me about really truly “buying in” to the Catholic faith and all it teaches, just as he had. Finally, soon before his death he welcomed a priest to his home for his last sacraments, confession and Eucharist. This, this is exactly what I pray wholeheartedly for, that all who are dear to me, truly discover why it is we are here on Earth and that we may all be reunited one day together in Heaven.
The last time I saw my Grandpa he was in great spirits, he was sweet and kind and I was able to give him one last smooch on his cheek. As I walked away, I looked back to wave goodbye with his daughter in front of me and my daughter in my arms he waved a sweet goodbye wave with a sweet smile that I will remember forever.
Thank you, Grandpa, for being in my life and shaping many parts of who I am.