Yesterday marked 11 years since my grandfather, Hans Band, died. In the short weeks before he died, I flew to Massachusetts from Chicago to sit beside him in his hospital bed. The experience marked me indelibly. A child refugee during World War II, Hans lived the complex story that accompanies processing intense grief, fear and loss at a young age. He was a quirky physicist, an inventor, a first generation immigrant to America. He deeply loved God, his family, and his adopted homeland. His life bore all of the scars of his past, but all I ever knew was an affectionate and doting grandfather. Disease began to take him long before his death; but even as it stole his memory and mind, it could not diminish his love for his granddaughters. I loved him immensely.
The day I flew to Boston, my two sisters and I gathered at his bedside. We sat and watched as he fidgeted in bed, disease winding down the degenerative work it had begun years before. Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day. His end was near, and these three women he’d loved since birth could form no words of worth. Perhaps feeling our inadequacy to the moment, perhaps knowing “the one thing needful”, we sang hymns to this man we loved so dearly. The darkness deepens; Lord with me abide. My heart still breaks with love and grief as I remember those hours.
It is hard for me to believe it’s been 11 years since I’ve seen my grandfather’s face, heard his voice, leaned into his embrace. Since moving to Massachusetts, I have visited his grave often. I go and sit in the cemetery beside his stone. He and my grandmother rest side by side. I talk to them, much as I talk to Rob now when I visit him at the cemetery. I tell my grandparents how much I miss them. How I wish they could see how my life has turned out. How joyful they would be to hear their great-grandchildren love the Lord. I bring flowers, and every time I sit there I cry. Not polite tears. Deep, sorrowful sobs. Because whether you are 84 years old and death seems a gentle mercy, or you are 41 and death seems a gross injustice, death is, for all, a great tragedy. Time does not diminish that truth. Our lives may grow around our grief as the years pass, but our grief — like our love — remains the same.
Someday, it will be 11 years since Rob died. Someday, I will sit at his grave and talk to him and weep remembering that day my life changed forever. And as I sit in that grassy field, the loss of him will feel so fresh that my body will find the sorrow still painfully tender and deep, still accessible in a way that always surprises me. I will cry and talk and maybe rage a little at the injustice of death. And then, I’ll do what I do each time I go to visit my grandfather where he rests. I’ll kiss Rob’s stone and whisper, “I miss you. I love you. I’ll be back soon.” Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus.
2 thoughts on “11 Years Later”
Just one of the many great things about these blogs is that we can relate to them. While (by definition) less than half of us have lost a spouse, what you write about it is so applicable to all of us.
And most of us have either memories of summer camp or experience preparing tax returns or (especially at my age) memories of losing precious grandparents, or any of the great variety of topics you make so personal and so interesting everyday. Thanks so much.
I was too young when my dad died to have any conscious memory of that, but when my grandpa (my dad’s dad) died a week after my 13th birthday I was heartbroken, and I can still remember it, and reading about your loss of your grandpa 11 years ago brought back precious memories of cross country car trips with my grandparents as they took me on his “preaching” trips and swimming with him in the Holiday Inn swimming pools in the Carolinas and taking my own turn in his basement study with him as he told us Bible stories and made it very clear how much he loved us. So many great memories, but the point is that you bring that all to life for so many of us in so many different ways by your gift of writing that you are sharing with us.
May the Good Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you. May the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace. Numbers 6:24-26. To you and all of Rob’s family. Thanks.
Steve, what a blessing that we carry these memories with us long after our loved one is gone. Your grandfather sounds like a very special man.