Wednesday, May 13, 2009

For Grandpa

It's amazing how a person's life perspective changes in the blink of an eye. Two weeks ago I was consumed by anxiety over being reduced in hours at my job and wondering how I was going to make rent and my student loan payments. Then on May 4, my life changed forever with the news of my grandpa being killed in an accident on the farm that's been in my family for more than a century.

I have grown in more ways during this last week at my grandparents' farm than I have any other time in my life, including recovering from the aftermath of 9/11. My grandpa was one of the closest people to me, and I never knew how I would cope with losing him. Now I know, and will probably share more of what I've learned in this last week at a later time. For now, at the request of several family members, I will leave you with the words I spoke at his funeral last Friday.

Lorne Wheeler
May 28, 1928 – May 4, 2009

When I got the news about Grandpa's accident on Monday, I was at work. My boss, sitting on the ground next to me in my cubicle holding me while I cried, said, "I never met your grandpa, but from all the stories you tell I think he left this world in a way fitting of him. He left strong and working on the land he loved."

Over the past two years, I’ve been in the process of writing Grandpa’s memoirs for him. As a trained journalist I'm supposed to be able to sum up a person's story and fit it all into a few inches of printed words. But when it comes to Grandpa, there's not enough paper in this world that could ever hold the fullness of life he lived.

The names of our family alone would take up several Sunday editions of The Fargo Forum, not to mention the names of the thousands of people whose lives were touched in some way by Grandpa.

We are his story. All of us, in our own way, have taken on characteristics of him that will live on for generations to come.

For some it's his irresistible humor and robust, hearty laugh that can be heard above everyone's in the room.

For others it's his incredible compassion and strength of spirit that can put anyone at ease the moment you quietly and gently reach for their hand, instinctively knowing the exact amount of time to hold it.

For others it's his sense of duty and diligent work ethic that inspires those around you to press on and press through, even in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles.

For others it's his appetite for adventure, and perhaps his appetite in general, in appreciating the here and now by taking joy in all of the simple day-to-day blessings life brings.

For others it's his shrewd business sense and honesty that garners the immense respect of those around you.

For others it's his selflessness and willingness to always be the bigger person who regularly sets aside their own needs for the sake of others.

And in all of these things, a characteristic held by each and everyone one of us in the Wheeler clan is knowing the importance of family. We are big, both in numbers and in love. The reason for this is because of the incredible love shared by two amazing people, Lorne and Libbey Wheeler, whose priority has always been and always will be the family.

So as we move forward with our lives from this incredibly sad time, we can take solace in knowing that Grandpa will always be with us so long as we have each other.

1 comment:

Cara L. Spoto said...

Vanessa,

I am so sorry about your grandfather. I met him and Libbey in Albany when they came to visit and remember what a neat guy he was, friendly and very self-possessed. If you ever need to talk I'm just a phone call away pumpkin. P.S. You gave a lovely speech.