Thomas Diehl | Friday, February 21, 2020
Somehow, some way, you managed to live through 19 years of my life. You got to watch me grow up. You got to watch me graduate from high school. You got to watch me become a Domer. Never in a million years did I think that all of this possible. Yet, there I was, driving to your apartment two hours before graduation to show you my Benet graduation outfit. And there I was, giving you a hug before I left back for South Bend over winter break, going into my second semester in college. I didn’t know that would be the last time I would ever see you. But looking back, it felt like you knew. You gave me the biggest hug I’ve ever received in my entire life the moment before I left. And that will forever be my favorite memory of you.
I hope you know how much you meant to me. You may not have been in the best health during most of my life. You may not have been able to make it to all of my activities because of that. You may have lost a lot of your memory near the end of your life. But that didn’t make you a bad grandpa; you were the best grandfather I could have asked for. You cared for me so much that you became an Irish fan. You gave me a hug every time I saw you and made sure you told me how much you loved me. You let me see you at your most vulnerable. Most importantly, though, you fought so hard to live just to watch me and my siblings grow up. I know you were hurting, and I know it wasn’t an easy road. But you and Yabbe sacrificed that for me, for my siblings and for my parents. I may not have been able to recognize that two weeks ago, but I recognize it now. And I hope you understand how incredibly thankful I am that you endured what you did in order to be a big part of my life.
When I saw my mom’s text on Tuesday morning, it turned into the worst morning of my life. I knew you had been sick, but I had convinced myself that you were invincible. And for the first time in my life, I was faced with the reality that I would never be able to see you again. I wanted to just lay in my bed and cry, but I had Orgo lab. And then I had Writing and Rhetoric. And then I had Orgo tutorial. I had to wait until 3:15 p.m. to be alone again. I wasn’t sure how I would make it. My mind certainly wasn’t there when I was doing Orgo. I’m certain I messed up one or two steps. I just couldn’t stop thinking about you. It was really sad at first, but then I hit a point where the tide turned. I began to think about how lucky I was. I sure as hell was lucky to have known you for 19 years of my life. But more so, the last words you would hear from me were the exact words I would tell you if I could do it over again, knowing you were going to pass away. Yabbe said how you were sad about being in the physical state you were in as a grandpa, and how you wished we could have seen you in your prime. Well, I told her to tell you one thing, and one thing only: You were the best grandpa anyone could have asked for.
God works in mysterious ways. The fact that I was able to have Yabbe tell you those words three days before your death still amazes me. What inspired me to call on that Saturday, and why on earth was that the one time I got sappy about you? I don’t know the answer to that question at all, but God was certainly trying to tell me to never hold back from telling people how I feel about them. You died knowing how I felt about you. What more could I possibly ask for?
There’s one thing I never told you, though. Grandpa, you showed me just how important it was to enjoy every moment living. I get so caught up in the future sometimes that I forget to live in the present. I think about how I am going to graduate with an amazing degree, how I am going to go onto medical school, how I am going to marry my high school sweetheart and how I am going to have this amazing life that I have created in my head. I need to remember, though, how amazing my life right here and now is. From telling me how much you loved me when I saw you, to listening and taking in everything I said in each conversation I had with you, you lived in the present better than anyone I know. Maybe it’s because you knew your time was coming soon. Maybe it’s because you felt your body giving out. Either way, it left me with the most important lesson I could receive. And I am forever grateful for it.
Thank you for the past 19 years. From the times I got to bike with you at Hilton Head Island to the times I got to help you up from a chair to get into your wheelchair, I cherished every minute of time I spent with you. You may not be around anymore for me to drive over and hug, but I know you’re with me in my heart and that wherever I go, you’ll be with me. You were the best grandpa ever, and I will never forget how much you meant to me. And hey, have some sweet potato fries for me in heaven. You deserve it.
Tommy Diehl is a freshman from the Chicago area majoring in science business and global affairs. When he’s not writing for The Observer, he can be found playing guitar, running or cheering for the Cardinals and the Packers. Tommy loves feedback and can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @tommydiehl5
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.