We buried my grandfather this weekend.
Yeah, Happy New Year, right? I’m trying not to be cynical. I’m trying not to be selfish in my sadness. I’m trying to be strong. But I’m so sad that I can hardly breathe. I’m having a hard time finding a smile in anything…not in my husband (although he is trying), not in my children (for they are mourning too, which breaks my heart even more), not even in the Church–or a collar, for that matter. The truth is I miss him already. Terribly.
I’m not going to tell you he was a perfect man. He was not. He was simply a man. Like all of us, he was flawed in some ways, wonderful in others. His sense of humor was amazing, and he loved us grandkids (and his great-grandchildren) with a pure heart. It saddens me to know I’ll never again hear, “What’s on your tender mind, little girl?” (Of course, who wouldn’t love being called ‘little girl’ at age 32, right?)
His funeral service was beautiful, and surprisingly, I actually learned things about my grandfather that I had never known before. Rather than paraphrase, I’ll just share the priest’s homily with you. (He gave a copy to my grandmother…isn’t that cool?) So, here goes:
A Purple Heart for his country, a Loving Heart for his family
Fr. Charles McMillin
When a man loves his family, that love does not suddenly appear because of his family, but is rather in place from a young age, having been taught by parents and grandparents. Edward E. Smith is such a man, loving his family as he was taught and beyond that, loving his fellow human beings who were not of his blood.
You can tell about the love a man has in his heart by looking at the times and seasons of his life. When we do this for “Smitty” “Red” Edward Smith, we see a man who served his country in such a way as to be awarded the Purple Heart, we see a man who did not boast of his bravery, even keeping to himself the rescue of nuns and orphans from a Japanese stronghold. We see a man who did not allow himself things that others could not have, we see a man who loved unseen children, through work with the Shriners. We see a man devoted to his grandchildren. We see a man who loves his beloved Hortense, to whom he has been joined in marriage for over 60 years.
Sacred Scripture tells us that the union of man and woman in the Sacrament of Marriage is meant to be an image of the relationship between Christ the groom and His Bride, the Church. Mrs. Hortense, will miss her beloved one. She will grieve for him certainly, but as Saint Paul teaches us in the reading we just heard from Romans, that neither anguish or distress or persecution or famine will separate us from the love of Christ, as will neither death nor present or future things. So, we find consolation in the present knowing that the One who did not spare His own Son, but handed Him over for us all, will also give us in the future everything else besides.
A navy man of distinction, a man who advocated for children needing to be admitted to the Shriners Hospital, a salesman of K & K water, one who loved the Texas Johnsons, a man who in the words of his family “If the kids couldn’t have it, he didn’t either”, a man who would kneel at the closing of day at the end of his bed and read from his book of prayer.
Our great hope tells us that Edward Smith has gone on to join others he has known, his parents, Matthew and Lottie, and of course his and Mrs. Hortense’s child, Gayle.
Saint Joseph tells us in his Gospel that those who have done good deeds rise to the resurrection of life.
Dear family, Mrs. Hortense, Dale, Elaine, Mary Beth…recall the good your husband, father has done. Think of his life with its wit and its sometimes passionate expressions.
Think of the multitude of “Edward-isms” and be certain that next year at this time, you will be remembering Christmases past with lights everywhere, with mom worrying about the electricity bill with all those lights. Remember her telling her beloved when his “passionate expression” or wit arouse saying, “Leave that alone, Edward.”
A new year. A time to ponder the goings and comings of life. Be certain of one thing dear family of Edward and Hortense, you were taught to put others first.
Do this and one day by the grace of God and a life lived with good deeds you will all be together again when the One who comes to judge will say “Come, inherit the kingdom prepared for you [and your family] from the foundation of the world.”
What a beautiful sermon that was! Fr. Mac’s (as he is affectionately called) words hung in the air, long after they left his lips.
I never knew about the Purple Heart. My grandfather never spoke of it to us (the grandchildren). He never spoke of the nuns and orphans. It saddens me to know that there were parts of his life kept secret. What other things will I never know of this man? And, now it’s too late. These were my thoughts as the servicemen gave their rifle salute, while each note of Taps caused my heart to break a little more.
Don’t let time slip by you. Get to know your elderly family members before it’s too late. There were stories about our family history that I always wanted to write down, but I never did. Now, I never can. My grandfather was the only one who knew these stories. That’s history lost.
Learn from me…don’t take for granted your loved ones. They will leave way before you’re ready for them to.
And one final note to the other grandchildren: Caitlin, Steven, and Leslie…I’m so sorry. I feel like you all were cheated. Being the oldest, I had 8 years more with him than you did. I was lucky enough to have my children while he was here. I am so sorry that you will never see him as a great-grandfather with your future little ones. But, don’t worry. We’ll be sure to all pass on his “pawpaw-isms.” Then you too, can have children who will say “Hey Rooster Bill” or “I gotta take a wiz”…if I have to be embarrassed, then you should too, right? And, remember, “Y’all come back when you got more time.” I love you all.