On the Wednesday my grandfather died, I spent half of the day in the hospital, with the beginning of back labor that they said could usher in early labor quickly or could last throughout the next three weeks until my due date. They gave me something to ease the pain.
Then my grandfather died. I marveled at the bitter irony.
We buried him on Saturday, and the following Wednesday, exactly one week later, my baby girl was born -two weeks ahead of schedule.
There just wasn't time to mourn. New life rushed in on the heels of death, and there wasn't time to grieve.
His funeral is a blur to me now. What stood out to me most was his coffin. I remember clearly the day, years ago, when he told me about selecting it … He described it as a thing of beauty, with plaques on all four corners that contained an image of a dove taking flight and a simple inscription: "Going home."
At the time, I told him I didn't want to talk about that. Now, years later, I realize why that coffin, a typically-tragic item that represents grief and mourning in death, was more symbolic to him of his life.
There is something mighty powerful about living your life with the belief that death is inevitably your right of passage home. My grandfather talked about death like it was just something he would do one day. He was amazingly at ease with the concept. But why shouldn't he have been? He believed it would finally lead him home.
C.S. Lewis said "If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world." My grandfather wasn't a big reader, and I doubt the name of C.S. Lewis meant a thing to him, but he would have understood this quote perfectly. This world isn't meant to be our permanent - or perfect - dwelling place. We're on our way there, so it's okay if here falls short.
I love to travel, and on every trip I have taken, the journey is always fun. I am excited along the way. I don't spend the flight or the ride upset because I'm not where I want to be; I take each moment in stride because I'm looking forward to my destination. Couldn't I live life like that? My Papaw did. That's probably why he could talk about death with such ease... Humor, even.
We were only slightly embarrassed the day he asked the worker at the bakery about an expiration date on an item. When she pointed it out to him, he shrugged, tossed the bread in his basket, and said, "Oh well, I could be dead by then anyway..." and moved on. Smirk on his face, of course. The worker was mortified, but we weren't surprised.
I now think it's fitting that I didn't have time to mourn him. I think he would have found it perfect that I couldn't focus on his death because new life burst forth so quickly. I miss him something powerful, but I fight against crying in sadness or loss. His outlook on life was all about this calm joy.
He was completely comfortable in his own skin, but he knew that he wasn't at home here.
One day, I'll tell my daughter about how her birth was a bittersweet joy, about how she was born on the wings of her great-grandfather's journey home. For now, I just pray that I inherited some morsel of my Papaw's attitude toward this life so that I may eventually live with the same fearless grace that he modeled for me.