Saturday, May 23, 2009

"The only thing missing..."

My grandfather passed away last week. It was one of those bittersweet moments when, within minutes of receiving the news, I saw that my workplace would be hosting a reunion for the retired soldiers of Sewart Air Force Base. My grandfather was stationed at Sewart twice while serving in the U.S. Air Force. The men of Sewart reunite every two years where I work and I am always honored to assist and get to know these men who shared a generation of greatness with my grandfather.

In recent years, I have bonded with these fine men by sharing with them my familial connection to Sewart. They always ask about my grandfather and are interested in knowing about him. Sometimes they ask why he's not at the reunion and sometimes the answer is that he's too weak or in the hospital. Yesterday, a gentleman who drove up from Georgia asked me if my grandfather was attending and I had to answer that we had just lost him a week ago.

From across the room I felt a palpable wave of sorrow and empathy leap from his heart. He had never met my grandfather and had only met me ten minutes before, but I was touched by the sincerity of his emotions. "My condolences," he said, as if he was the first person ever to put those two words together. They weren't spoken merely out of politeness, but shared on the most genuine level. I replied in kind and thanked him graciously. I continued about my day, going about my duties, but keeping the moment close to my heart.

Tonight I saw him again. The group was passing by my work area on their way to dinner and I was greeting everyone and wishing them a nice evening. When I made eye contact with the man from Georgia and asked him how everything was going, he answered, "The only thing missing is your grandfather." Just seven words spoken, but the kindness on his face said so much more: "He was a great man." "He lived a full and accomplished life." "I am so very sorry for your loss."

I hope he realizes just how much I appreciate his kind words. I suspect that he does. It's as if he's lived long enoughand lived through enoughthat he just knows exactly what to say to make someone's day. I thanked him in person and I'm thanking him here. The good men of Sewart Air Force Base will always hold a special place in this grandson's heart.


Corey Webb said...

What a wonderful man. Thanks for sharing that Mike. I know from working with these incredible veterans that it truly is a delight and honor to get to talk to them and hear their stories. They are also some of the most "real" people you will ever meet.

Anonymous said...

thank you for sharing this with all
the others. daddy was indeed one of
the greatest men i've ever met in my entire life and also one of the
most humble. i expect the men at the Sewart reunion are all so much
like him. there were other reunion
groups that daddy was a member of,
mostly groups of air force men and
bomber pilots. the past couple of
years he was unable to go to them
because of his declining health. i
think about daddy every day still
and wish that i were still able to
go to the farm and see him - even
one more time. so many questions to
ask, so many times to tell him how
much we all loved him - but he knew
that anyway. daddy was one of those
sincerely lucky people who had a
wife, children, grandchildren and
great-grandchildren who loved him
with all their hearts.
the man whom you named Pa will be
told stories to his great-grand-
children about how honest and proud
he was and always did the correct
thing, no matter what. you had him
for almost 40 years so you know how
worthy a man he truly was. i had him as a father for almost 62 years
and have memories untold of how
totally wonderful he was. just like mom (or Nina), he'll never be
forgotten. love - mom

cherrie said...

WOW!!!, What a very moving story and very emotional one as well.

Melissa said...

sometimes strangers are capable of giving you exactly what you need.

Anonymous said...

Nice story, amigo...I also am sorry for your loss.. Pops