Yesterday marked the 9th anniversary of my Grandpa Schmidt’s passing.
This also means that I have a 9 year old child. She was born just five short weeks prior to Grandpa’s death. Things had been so hectic with a newborn and us being so far from any family that I hadn’t even taken the time to speak to him or Grandma on the phone about their newest great grandchild yet. I never got that chance and that’s something I’ll mourn the rest of my days.
Grandpa Schmidt’s loss was the first grandparent I’d lose and my first meaningful experience with death. I was thirty-five years old, a first time father, and here I was finally experiencing death for the first time in my life. I was exceptionally lucky to have avoided that moment for more than a third of a century, but I sure didn’t feel that way at the time. It was emotional, to say the least.
My mother-in-law who had been visiting for a couple weeks to help with her first grandchild was able to extend her stay a few days so I could return home for the funeral. My cousin in BC managed to catch a flight that connected through Calgary and we flew the rest of the way home together. We hugged, told lots of stories, and wore sunglasses much of the way to hide our reddening eyes.
I wrote a eulogy of sorts, a view of Grandpa’s life from his grandkid’s perspective, and read it to the gathered mourners, letterpress printing terminology screw-up included. Grandpa would have gotten a good chuckle out of that faux pas. I still cuss myself for it.
I had managed to keep it together pretty good, all things considered, until the burial. That’s when I found myself sobbing into first my dad’s and then an uncle’s shoulder like an inconsolable child. It was a no holds barred, full on breath gasping sob, the kind I hadn’t had in thirty years previous. I was new to this death thing.
My flight back to Calgary was alone. I was emotionally spent, missing my grandpa but eager to return to my wife and new baby daughter. I put in my earbuds, stared out the plane window and turned on the in-flight music selection. One of the pre-programmed shows was forgotten hits or something like that. It was mostly uninspired junk, but one song moved me tremendously that day.
I had never heard the song in my life, though I was vaguely familiar with the name of the artist. It was a country tune that had no connection to my grandfather whatsoever, nor any appropriately meaningful lyrics for what I’d just been through. But it had harmony and grandpa loved harmony. I was captivated by that song and desperately waited for it to cycle through again. And again. I listened to it four or five times that flight and it proved a strange but effective balm for my heart those four hours in the sky.
So in honour the passing of my departed but still very much loved Grandpa Schmidt, I’m kicking off your weekend, once you stop the tears, with the song that I will forever associate with the man every bit as much as I do Homer and Jethro or Charley Pride. From the 1977 album Love Is Just a Game by Larry Gatlin and the Gatlin Brothers, this is “I Just Wish You Were Someone I Love”.
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