7 years ago to the day, I awoke at 4 AM in a blanket sweat. A sensation of panic and uncertainty had taken control of my body and I was clueless as to how to ascribe this sensation and the accompanying emotion to any one set of events in my life. I had hardly slept all night and the overwhelming restlessness exhausted my body but kept my heart racing. Minutes later my mother came into my room in fragile state, holding whatever composure she could ascertain to pass on a simple yet devastating message. I knew something was wrong as soon as she made eye contact.
My grandfather, my idol and my hero, had died earlier in the night.
I will always remember the uneasiness that sat in the pit of my stomach from the moment she spoke those words. It is one of those episodes that we all have in life that forever change the complexion of what we are as human. Births, deaths, and other momentous occasions often have this impact on personality and our growth as people. Greater still, was the fact that this is the type of impact my grandfather had on me not only in death, but also throughout the brief 14 year period in which our lives overlapped.
I suppose the general ideals I gleaned from him are basic: honor is in effort; careers are made for self-fulfillment, callings are made for selfless-contribution; holding back in anything is either poor planning or preparation for failure, a will is single most powerful tool of man… I have a number of these that could easily be structured into a life plan for success. But that was the man that he was. I had never known him to fail in anything or to falter in the strength of his determination. He was a man that stayed up for consecutive days without aid or caffeine simply to prove that he could. He was also the same man that peacefully protested an oppressive British government and was imprisoned as a result of his conviction. That was just who he was, the personification of will.
He died in his sleep that night due to complications with his heart health and a continuing struggle with diabetes. It’s almost like he waited to pass on that night. The curious fact that I’ve failed to mention to this point is that the anniversary of his death is also my grandmother’s birthday. Maybe it’s just the romantic in me, but I believe he waited until my grandmother could say she spent another full year of her life with the man she loved. And so after the stroke of midnight, he let his body relax.
He gave up his constant resistance and loosened his will to push back against his infirmity. And perhaps for the first time in all the years I had known him, he let the strength of his conviction waver and so he slipped into the darkness while everyone slept. Of course that’s just speculation. Maybe that is how it happened. I prefer to think he accomplished his goal of surviving that one last day and there was almost nothing left for him to accomplish. I know that if he had willed anything else, he would have found a way for it to happen.
In actuality, I suppose some spirited form of him still resolves to carry out goals through manifesting himself in my actions. A ghostly variety of his conscience or what is virtually an overwhelming essence of my ethics already infects my decisions on a regular basis. And I can honestly say I’m ever-so-proud of that. I hope that when I pass, those I leave behind can hold me close in the same way.