Last night, I bought a ticket to Arizona for my grandfather’s funeral. For obvious reasons, I’ve been thinking about my grandfather a lot in the past few days.
The day after he passed away, I sat down at my desk and pulled out the notes he had recently sent me for a memoir that he wanted to write. He had asked me to help him pull his life story together.
I looked back over the fragments of his life—some handwritten, some typed (no doubt by his wife—Pop Pop wasn’t very up on technology).
His story, as he’s written it, is surprising. He focuses not on the things I was most interested in reading about—like how he met my grandmother and what my mom was like when she was young—but about his experiences in the military.
He was a Navy man through and through, and a proud veteran of World War II. The stories he shares about his early days in the military are harrowing. He writes about being on leave after basic training, and rushing back to his base upon hearing the news that Pearl Harbor had been attacked.
He writes about rescuing some of his fellow soldiers when the aircraft carrier they all worked on was attacked and sinking. It’s clear that these are some of the proudest moments of his life.
One of the bigger regrets of my life is that I didn’t make the time to help him get his book published before he died. I had planned to help him publish it himself so he had copies to give out to his friends and family.
It wasn’t an earth-shattering story, and it wasn’t especially well-written (he couldn’t afford college, but he was proud of the fact that he did make it through high school), and it wasn’t going to shoot to the top of any bestseller lists. But it was his story, and his story mattered. It mattered to him, and to all of us who cared about him.
It was a life of hard knocks and sad truths, but he lived 88 years, and he had wisdom and insight that most of us will never approach. He was a faithful man, and his spiritual counsel was priceless. He was compassionate and caring. His life touched thousands of others, and that’s what makes me so certain that though he never got to hold his book in his hands, his story will live on.
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