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photo by Mico Mazza

Too late may be sooner than you think

THIS PAST DECEMBER, after a gruelling battle with a lengthy repertoire of ailments and illnesses, my maternal grandfather finally passed. Though the death of Grandpa Beeman was, and still remains, one of the most affecting losses of my life, I could not help but think to myself in a quiet moment alone at his wake, “I’m so much closer with my other grandparents. How much worse will it be when they die?”

Never in a million years did I think I would be forced to revisit that question so soon, but after finding out two short weeks ago that my paternal grandfather has been diagnosed with chronic leukemia, the fear of loss has again come unexpectedly and undesired into my mind.

Not all youth are as close with their grandparents as I have had the chance to be with mine—this I know. But there is one other thing I have that many young people do not: Fair warning.

I knew for a long time my now deceased grandfather was not long for this world. Despite years of a practically non-existent relationship, I was given time to cultivate not only a familiarity with my grandpa, but a closeness and insight I still feel he shared only with me. Now, though I’ve no idea how long I have until I will be speaking at another funeral, I have again been given the chance to make the best of what time my living grandfather has left, be it years or merely a few short weeks.

Thankful as I am for this time, I can’t help but think of all the people my age who have not had this chance, people whose experience with their grandparent’s death has been or will be a process of regret rather than fond memories.

It is not my place, nor my desire, to preach to the student body about the importance of spending time with our elderly before time runs out. It is the gift of my experience, however, to assure you despite how close you may be with your grandparents now, the life of a student has a way of obscuring what is really important in life and keeping us from seeing what our real focus should be.

The other day, a fellow editor quoted the following to me: “Whenever a senior citizen dies, it’s as though a library burns.” Why not read a page or two of that library now before they all turn to ash?

—Jaclyn Lytle