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 enough—and lived through enough—that 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.