Tuesday, December 08, 2009

In Remembrance of My Grandfather...

My grandfather passed away yesterday morning, the day after my birthday.  Until he developed congestive heart failure a year and a half ago (at the age of 81) he was healthier than most 40 year olds I know.  He lived alone, went where he wanted, whenever he pleased.  He was kind-hearted with a wry sense of humor.  His jokes would make you groan, then laugh, in spite of yourself.  He was reliable.  He loved to travel, loved music, and loved good food.  His thin frame made everyone wonder where he put it all.  But he walked all over Chicago, so calories had no time to take up residence.  He documented every era of our lives with his ubiquitous camera.  He was a hard-working man.  He was a former soldier.  He was a great father, and a great man.  He was eccentric.  He was fiercely independent.  He was humble.  He was proud.

So, for him to suffer for the past year and a half, increasingly dependent, and growing weaker and weaker until he could no longer even feed himself or hold a newspaper, was hard to accept.  My mother was with him day in and day out.  I saw him at the beginning of his decline, and then again a few weeks ago - just after his heart had been restarted.  Just before the DNR papers were signed.

Whatever one's person opinion of whether or not to take heroic measures to prolong the life of another, I'm sure we can all agree that QUALITY of life is very important.  There is a difference between "living" and "existing."  My grandfather, "Daddy Jim" had stopped living, and he knew it.  He told my mother "I've had a full life."  And he had.  Having lived every moment of his life, he knew the difference between living and existing.

So he will be laid to rest tomorrow, but the memory of him lives on.  We will miss his distinctive voice.  His hearty laugh.  His wisdom.  The junk he would find on the train and bring to us, bless his soul.

We will celebrate his life, and honor his memory by never letting his standards fall.  His size-thirteens are huge shoes to fill, and the only way we'll fill them is by also living every moment of every day of our lives.

My mother asked me to write a poem for the obituary.  I wanted to share it:

Daddy Jim – “The Gift That Keeps On Giving”

We will cry no sad tears
for your life was a gift
to those of us who remain.

Touched by your kindness, your humor, your presence,
we have all been forever changed.

With love in our hearts, we celebrate your life, and all that you taught us to be:
a father, a brother, a friend like few others,
a light for the world to see.

We will not dress in black
in honor of lack
as if today were the sum of your worth.

We will wear joy
for we know we were blessed
by virtue of your birth.

You showed us that the true measure of a man
was within the span of your hands
as you cradled us all with care:

strong and steady,
always at the ready
whenever we needed you there.

And now we give back
by going forth
and living as you would have us to live:

proud and true - just like you,

what a gift to give.

--Nicole J. Butler
December 8, 2009

Sleep sweetly, Daddy Jim.


*baseball caps, old newspapers, t-shirts, mugs ... whatever someone left behind, if he thought it was salvageable, he would bring it to us.  We would throw half of it away as soon as he left.  The rest was actually pretty good stuff! ;o)


  1. Beautiful poem. I pray the rest of your family has the same peace that you seem to have.

  2. The honoring of a loved one is a valuable and precious thing. It is not be trampled, but treated with great care. Today I allow the honoring of your grandfather to take root in my life to continue to honor, embrace, appreciate and enjoy the memories of those I hold dear. Thank you for sharing your heart, insights and memories. May the peace you have continue to touch others. The poem was very rich.

  3. Beautiful poem, Nicole. It seems you have such fond memories to comfort you during this sad time. I'm sending good thoughts to you and your family.

  4. Anonymous7:01 PM

    I just read the blog about Daddy Jim and it's 'right on'. I had actually forgotten about all that 'crap' he would bring us. I would clean up before he came over and he would load up the cocktail table with this stuff. I have a drawer full of cell phones that he found on the 'EL. I also have boxes and boxes of ink pens and pencils he brought us. I always graciously accepted all this stuff and did what I wanted to do with it. Now, his junk brings fond memories. Thank you Niki for reminding me.


Thank you - your comment will appear as soon as it is approved by the moderator!