Part of the conversation during #langchat on Thursday night talked about how it is important that we be “real” with our students. In the same vein, I am going to be real with y’all. My last amazing Grandpa, Henricus Josefus vanLieshout, died at the ripe old age of 93 in the early morning of December 31. I was not able to travel back East for the funeral, and my heart continues to mourn the loss of this great man that I was planning to introduce to his youngest great-grandson in just a few short weeks. As Sara-Elizabeth once wrote on her own blog, this is my blog and I can write about anything I want! This post is in honor of him.
It would be impossible to spend more than five minutes with Grandpa and then try to argue that he didn’t absolutely love his life. Chief among Grandpa’s many wonderful personal qualities was joy: he loved to laugh, he loved to talk, he loved to play…he loved to play tricks…he loved to learn, he loved to sing, and he loved to love. He loved being alive.
Grandpa’s boundless joy was bought at a price. He worked hard for everything that he had; including his relationships. This is most true of his relationship with Grandma. I remember being at Steve and Cindy’s house for Christmas 2010 and seeing Grandpa sitting down, kitty-corner from Grandma at a table. It was loud; a lively game of charades, no doubt led by The Three Musketeers a.k.a. Jessica and Theresa and Maria, was going on across the room, and laughter bounced off all the walls. And yet Grandpa was not aware of any of it. He was leaning forward, gazing lovingly into Grandma’s eyes as he talked to her quietly about who-knows-what as she sat slightly hunched over with a blank, downward stare. And somehow, he didn’t care that she wasn’t responding. Given the opportunity to take a break from his role as care-taker and just enjoy himself for a few hours while others cared for Grandma, he chose to stay by her side.
You see, the secret to everything that Grandpa had–the secret even to his joy–was self-sacrifice.
There is no higher calling for each of us than to lay down our lives for others: in our friendships, in our marriages, and in the one relationship that matters above all others: our relationship with God the Father, made possible through the sacrifice of His son Jesus Christ and evidenced by the Holy Spirit that dwells within us. We are called to sacrifice our joy for the joy of others; our will for the will of the Father. When we do, we find that even though it defies all logic, our joy is restored and then increased.
I am so sad that Grandpa is gone, and I know that I am not alone in thinking that if one person were ever going to defy death, it would have been Grandpa. And as I have spent these past few days in tears, eating sandwiches with excessive amounts of iceberg lettuce and considering how I might honor his legacy, I am left with this:
“He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal”. – John 12:25
Grandpa, I love you so much, and what can I say? I miss you.