True Beauty

In the end, life is as simple and beautiful as banana pudding, egg salad sandwiches, and a dusty ol’ Navy duffel bag.

My 95-year-old father-in-law passed away more than a year ago. He lived in Charlevoix, Michigan a beautiful little tourist city in northern Michigan. Last week, I helped clean out his house. A flood of memories was almost enough to fill the nearly empty rooms. There were so many laughs here. So much joy. I heard the little voices of the grand kids banging pots and pans at midnight on New Year’s Eve. I flashed back to family dinners, playing cards, and impromptu dance parties as music and laughter echoed through the house.

It’s an odd feeling going through someone’s belongings. The man kept everything. His work room was still intact as if he had just stepped away for a moment. There’s a receipt on the floor for batteries he bought in 1991. There’s a stack of business cards from the 1970s, and a random box of hotel shampoo bottles. And there, tucked way under a tool bench, is his Navy duffel bag issued to him sometime during World War II. Dad lived a long and interesting life.

He’s not here anymore.

My friend Jason lost his grandmother a few days ago. She battled Alzheimer’s for several years, and he was there at her bedside at the end. He remembers her for many things including her sweetness, her giggle, and the best banana pudding of all time! “Funny too, whenever I showed up, she’d always seem to be just pulling it out of oven,” he recalls. “And she’d always craft a “J” in the méringue on top and browned it just so…” ‘Gran Jan’ was thoughtful, caring, and loving. “She gave and gave and gave,” Jason writes.

She’s not here anymore.

Jason’s grief-filled memories reminded me of my own grandmother who died several years ago. They look like they could be sisters. I remember how Gee Gee spoiled me. I remember how proud she was of me. And I remember she’d pack me two egg salad sandwiches – one for lunch and one for dinner – as I worked long hours at her favorite TV News station. “My grandson writes for News 5” she’d tell everyone. “And he’s on the radio too!” Oh, how she loved me.

She’s not here anymore.

It’s easier than ever to get so preoccupied with the world’s darkness that we forget to be the light. We’re give very little time to shine. Life is beautiful. It’s banana pudding, egg salad sandwiches, and dusty ol’ duffel bags.

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