Friday, February 14, 2014
I lost my grandfather better known as Ota, a couple of weeks ago. He was 91. He lived an extraordinary life fighting in World War II, returning to find his mother as a refugee living on a farm in Austria. Remarkably, in that area, he met my Grandmother, a war widow with two small children. They married, had a son together, and 6 years later left for America on a cargo transport ship over the Atlantic. The trip lasted two rocking, wretching weeks before they landed in New York. With only $500 in his pocket, 3 children, a wife and his own mother, they quickly boarded a train bound for California. Awaiting them was a German host family who had made a similar journey, were now settled and would be their home base until they could get jobs, a car, etc.
1 month later, my grandparents moved their brood to an apartment. Ten months later they bought their first house. Amazing. Everyone who could work, did work. All those pay checks were combined to help the family prosper.
My grandfather could be coarse, even grouchy in his ways. He never hugged us as his grandchildren, but mellowed over the years. He was generous and smiley with his great grandkids, and played a positive role in our family which at its most numbered 26. He adored my 93 year old grandmother and cared for her up until a week before he passed from cancer.
He drove, shopped, even played tennis until 90. A priest came to the house a few days before his death and gave him the sacrament of the sick and prayed with family members. My sister and I, who are strong Christian, prayed steadily for his salvation too. I imagine him in heaven now with a sweet soul and free from pain and worry.
His memorial service was simple, but nice; a good turnout, considering the age of the deceased. Some came toddling slower than others, but not one had a wheelchair or a walker which amazed me. This generation that had seen war and poverty and earned their "American Dream" with blood sweat and tears were all walking and talking and eating and smiling. They are survivors. They are people who have seen it all. They came to send off one of their own.
I hope my children took in even a tiny hint of what my grandfather achieved, the many discoveries and changes he had witnessed in his life, and also how he died, at home, surrounded by family in peace. When I think about all I want to achieve yet before I die, I too will try to keep in mind that which is most important: Salvation, Family, and Peace.