My father-in-law, Harley E. Rouda Sr., died last Thursday. He lived a great life, accomplished so much, raised four kids, started a business that still survives today and, he loved to laugh. What's more, he was a trailblazer who welcomed women into management positions in the real estate industry long before most others. My husband and his dad were incredibly close - a type of bond you hope for between a father and son, a kid and a parent. But you know what else? He also was incredibly close to my children. He was a great grandfather to our four kids. Present, loving, giving, teasing, laughing. He was there and they knew it.
Unfortunately, my children were too young to remember their great grandparents before they died. So this, their beloved grandpa was the first person they loved who passed away. First funeral. First memorial service. First burial. And while each kid has handled it differently, they were all deeply saddened by his loss. And will be.
Passages are hard, but inevitable. Before my father-in-law's death, I had been overly focused on the next passages in our nuclear family - another child entering his senior year in high school and my first, entering his senior year in college. One more year until the real world for him; one more year with two kids at home for me. That hollow sound of the nest emptying gets louder by the minute, but that's for another post.
These passages, while difficult, are surmountable and they're important steps in life. Death, the final passage, puts all of the daily hurdles and blessings disguised as life changes into perspective. I'm going to try to remember that for the coming years.
Just as I'll always remember my father-in-law's twinkling blue eyes and his wonderful smile. As he said the last time I saw him over Memorial Day weekend: "This is it. If you keep laughing, keep having fun, you keep going. You could live forever." And he will, in our hearts and in the comfort of God's embrace.