I was a pallbearer for the second time this summer on Thursday.
The first time was in July for my stepgrandmother. On Thursday, I was a pallbearer at the funeral of my wife's grandfather.
I only knew Don Schindel for about eight years, but he was very generous and kind toward me from the first time we met at a family Fourth of July party after I had been dating his granddaughter for just a few weeks to our final barbecue dinner together a month ago. He always had a warm smile and a firm handshake ready for me when we were in the same room, and I enjoyed his company thoroughly. He was a great man. I was happy to have known him.
At the visitation and briefly at the funeral, mourners talked about how frustrated he was near the end of his life that he no longer could be productive like he once was, no longer could live his life as he had the decades and decades before.
One of the hardest parts about getting older is watching those you love get older around you.
For the most part, I – like many people – choose not to think about it. I choose to forget that both my parents are now in their 50s, that my remaining grandparents are all in their 70s or older. I prefer to think of them as I knew them in my youth – in their 20s and 40s with the thought of 50 nowhere to be seen.
As much I choose not to think about it, however, the truth is always around us.
We get older. We break down. And in the end, we die. This is life.
I was watching a clip of "Conan" earlier today in which comedian du jour Louis C.K. said something that caught my attention.
"After you're born, the only thing you really have coming to you is death."
What's important, really, is what happens in between.
Don Schindel did many great things in his life. He was a World War II veteran. He worked hard for Illinois Bell for more than 30 years after he came back from the war. He raised a wonderful family, which eventually led to his beautiful granddaughter who became my wife.
My stepgrandmother also did many great things in her life. Raised a wonderful family. Made many a glorious Southern meal. More importantly, made my grandfather happy.
We all have great things to do in life. You might not think of them as great, but the simplest things in the world such as loving each other and being there for one another also are the greatest things we can do in our lives. Both Don and my stepgrandmother accomplished these things. I plan on doing so, as well.
After writing this column, I will continue to not think about getting older and death. There are too many great things to do between now and then to spend time worrying about the inevitable and I intend to do them.
Then, when I die, as we all must, I will go having loved, having been loved and having filled my life with as many wonderful people and things as possible.
And in the end, I think that's all we can hope for.
Filed under: Columns