We lost him today, my Grandpa. Words cannot really express what he meant to me or how he touched my life in so many ways. Words cannot do his life justice, for after describing him, one would think him just an ordinary man. One would examine his quiet (yet often very talkative) ways, his gentle spirit, his humble way of living, and wonder what made him so special.
Well, Keith Rakestraw was an extraordinary man. He walked with God daily. He prayed for his loved ones nightly. He served his country in the military and he came home and raised his family. He fought several kinds of cancer in his lifetime and beat them. He never lost his faith, even in his darkest hours. Even when he couldn’t lift his head from the pillow, he told us all how much he loved us and how he was ready to go home.
I will NEVER forget my Grandpa and the time we had together. My only regret is that I wasn’t able to have any children before he passed so that he would have lived to see that prayer answered. (Maybe he can put in a good word for me upstairs).
I will never forget trailing after him in the garden, watching him stick fallen bird feathers in his weather-worn straw hat. He always seemed so happy and at peace when he was outside; I think it was his church. When I was a child, every little thing he showed me was magical- the blue shell of a robin’s egg cradled in his hand, impossibly tiny strawberries still green on the vine, grumpy little toads that made their home under the cool tent of rhubarb leaves. One summer long ago, he even befriended a squirrel. It became tame enough to accept nuts from his fingers, although it would not go near any other human. Grandpa called him “Rudy”….
Funny the little things you remember…
I could go on all day, but like I said before, words cannot express. It all seems so feeble an attempt and all my words seem to fall flat. Words are never enough. Tonight my family gathered in my mom’s kitchen to have a piece of cake for Amanda’s birthday, which was yesterday. I think it’s the quietest I’ve ever seen my family. One of us would begin to try to put it into words, try to articulate our feelings about Grandpa, and then trail off, the words lodged in our throats. We’d all nod, blinking back tears, to show that we understood. It was like saying without words, “It’s ok. We know what you mean. You don’t have to say anything.”
So I won’t try anymore. There is nothing said in memoriam that will give or take away the value of his existence. The people whose lives he touched have nothing to prove, no one to convince. No, there won’t be a statue constructed for his passing. It won’t be on the news and there won’t be a national holiday to celebrate his birthday. Despite this fact, I have no doubt my Grandpa was any less important or loved. Who can say how many people were changed by having known him. I know I am.
Tonight my Grandma said, almost as if to herself, “I wonder how many times your Grandpa changed my life…”
We all stopped talking and waited for her to say more, to elaborate.
“Maybe someday I’ll have to write them all down.”