Last week I read here a touching, honest post written by a mother who lost her teenage son. The story has stayed with me. I honestly avoid writing about loss as it feels too sad to put on the page. Yet, I told her how brave she was so I'm going to try to be brave, too.
As we sat at the tables in the private dinning room at the Steak Restaurant, I thought about whether I could/should offer a toast during the dinner. The tables were aligned in 2 long rectangles, making an L-shape. My mom was seated where the two table came together. Next to her were her dearest friends. My sister, my brother, his wife and two teenage boys sat at the other rectangle table and I was sitting with my husband, his mom, and a few of my mother's closest widowed friends on the other side. We had all just attended Mass on the 20th anniversary of my father's passing and it was also my 45 birthday.
Looking across to my nephews, I was feeling a little guilty that my two daughters weren't here. But my oldest was working 24/7 to get Obama elected. "She has to eat dinner, can't see come for dinner?" my mom inquired. It was October 11th, less than a month away from Election Day so I replied, "No, she doesn't get a dinner break now." It was High School Homecoming for my other daughter who did come to church with us. Then, after posing in a few photos on the church lawn, heading off with friends to the events at her high school.
As orders were taken and drinks were served, I thought about a toast I could give. I thought about how there are now four grandchildren, 2 boys and 2 girls. None of them ever met their grandfather as the oldest, my oldest, arrived in the world just 6 days after his passing. Yet, all 4 of them are so much like my dad/their grandfather.
I didn't speak up to give a toast that night. But if I did, it might have sounded like this:
As we gather tonight to honor dad, I am struck by his grandkids, the four people he never actually met in person. Yet, in my mind they are so much like him.
My oldest - she is a workaholic, rarely stopping while working the Presidential campaign. So was dad. He was self-employed and as his own boss, his work was never done. The night of his heart attack that took him, he had worked a 10+ work day. I think he understands his oldest granddaughter's work ethic and would be so proud of her.
My youngest - she has lots of friends and like to celebrate. "Of course you can go to the events at school tonight. Could you squeeze in church? It would mean a lot to Nana?" I told her earlier in the week. We all know, dad LOVED to party. He worked hard but he also played hard! Our house always had extra people over on the weekends and was filled with 50+ people every New Year's Eve as I grew up. I think he understands his youngest granddaughter's desire to be with friends tonight, having a fun time and would be so proud of her.
My brother's boys - you are both so athletic and are really good at the sports they do - baseball, volleyball, swimming. Your grandpa would have loved to attend your games and he would have cheered the loudest. I know because he volunteered to be a timer at all my swim meets and he loved going to my brother/your dad's basketball games when we were growing up. He would have been so proud you, his grandsons and would have been your most supportive, loudest fan!
I didn't speak up to give a toast that night. Instead, we all enjoyed being together on this day with my mom. But if I did, it would have sounded like what I just drafted above. Then I would have ended by saying something like this:
Though dad left us too early, his presence is still seen and felt, especially in his amazing four grandchildren. His life is being carried on so well through them.