My grandfather was a humble man and he would have had mixed feelings about being the center of attention today. On one hand he would have appreciated having everyone he loved here in one place. He loved connecting with others. On the other, he was never big on talking about himself.
To a young boy, distracted by everything, a grandfather is a lot like a mountain, larger than life. I don’t mean just in stature, though my grandfather was tall. I don’t just mean in personality though my grandfather laughed a lot.
A mountain is just always there, since the beginning of time as far as the boy can measure it.
A mountain is so sturdy, so dependable, so unchanging, that it’s easy for the boy to forget it’s there even when it was right in front of him. It was just part of the boy’s landscape, like the sky or the ocean or the sun rising every day in the east.
No matter how far that boy traveled, no matter where in the world, without realizing it, he always knew where he was in relation to the mountain. It’s how he always knew exactly where he was. The mountain was always there in the background for every special occasion: Birthdays, holidays, graduations, house warmings, hospital visits, weddings. It was natural to assume the mountain would always be there.
But people aren’t mountains after all. They live for a time and they die, leaving those behind them to carry on as best they can.
Or are they?
The boy, now a man, still navigates his way through life using all the lessons he learned in the shadow of the mountain. He wears a hat outside, takes it off indoors (especially at the table). He’s learned the importance of family. The man is awed by all the love and fellowship that gathered in the great shadow of his mountain.
My grandfather outlived many—maybe most—of his friends and yet still he was always connecting with new ones, a gift of his I always admired.
And the man realizes that the mountain that was his grandfather lives even larger inside his own heart. And this gives the man peace. If the mountain of my grandfather made a positive impact on any of you, then I hope you also recognize him inside your heart and that this may also bring you peace.
So today, in honor of a man who in his lifetime was a marine, a painter, a husband, a father, a grandfather, a great-grandfather, a great-great grandfather, a friend to so many, and a mountain of love and light to his family, I invite you all to see—to really see—the mountains in your own life’s landscape. Love them and appreciate them and don’t forget to visit them once in awhile (mountains like that).
Don’t forget that you that you too may be a mountain in someone else’s life, someone who looks at you like you’ll always be there. I think my grandfather would have wanted you to know that that’s okay, it’s the nature of being a mountain. There will come a time when there will be a hole in their universe and they too will pause and reflect on everything that you did for them. For everything that you shared with them. For all the ways you connected with them.
Grandfather, for everything you’ve done for me, for everything you’ve shared, I thank you. My world—our world—was a happier place for having you in it. I will always carry your spirit with me, you will always be my landmark and I will always love you very much.