A few weeks ago, I cooked a ham and invited two of my sons over to have dinner with my wife and I. When we got to the table, my son Josh told a story.
The day before, he had received one of those emails — the kind that you open up and your computer is instantly filled with a virus. He has warned me about those emails.
Despite that, after looking at the email he decided to open it. It contained an attachment. After examining it closely, he decided to open it as well.
At dinner Josh read us the email. It was from a woman in Michigan. Her son is in the first grade, and he had brought home a book from school that he was to read to her for his homework. The attachment to the email was a photograph of the inside of the book. In it was a note that said, “To Josh Clinkscales, Valentine’s Day 1990, Grampy and Grammie Stucky.”
When all of us sitting at the table looked at the page, we instantly recognized Grammie Stucky’s handwriting. Grammie was my wife’s mother, Josh’s grandmother.
There was just a moment of silence and pause, of astonishment, but also of reflection.
In my office, we work with a lot of families dealing with significant chronic illnesses. With those families, a care coordinator (usually a social worker or registered nurse) works with that family to help deal with the aging or chronic illness progress. Usually, we work with those families for the remainder of their lifetime. At the passing of a client, we meet with their family for a final meeting.
By this point, we have become in many ways part of the family. I am always astonished at what I hear from those meetings: reflections of the joy of remembering, stories, and lessons. While there is certainly a sense of loss, there is also a sense of recognition of the importance of the person in the family, and the warmth that brings.
So many of my clients have had such strong, positive influences on not only their children, but their grandchildren as well. They live on through the lessons they have passed on. They live on through their expressions of kindness during their lives. They live on through the moralities that they have taught, both in words and by deeds. They live on through their influences that will not only affect their children and their grandchildren, but generations to come.
When we were sitting at the dinner table looking at that book, with the handwriting of Grammie Stucky, we really felt the presence of Grammie and Grampy in the room as if it were 1990 all over again. It was as if they were standing over us, smiling. We could feel the warmth of the glow of their presence, and we all knew that they were still with us.
Our lives mean more than the property we pass onto our family on our death. Our lives are those lessons, experiences, and stories that we pass on. My lesson from Grammie and Grampy is that the way that I treat my family greatly influences how they will remember me, and how they will treat others.
How did the woman find out about Grammie and Grampy? Apparently the book had been purchased on Amazon. When she read the inscription she started doing some research and found Grammie Stucky’s obituary and it all made sense. She even noted that they got the book in February, the book was from February of 1990, and Grammie had passed away in February of 2017.
The world sure seemed smaller and warmer than it did the day before.
Randy Clinkscales is a 1980 graduate of Washburn Law School.