Warren J. Shuck, my grandfather, died in early February at age 97. He was an incredible man in the way that phrase should be used — he was honest, caring, intelligent. He had character.
I had the huge honor of speaking at his funeral.
Gramps, I found the note that you wrote to us. You had placed in the upper drawer of your desk, on top of a pile of this month’s checks. When I read it, I understood that you meant for us to find it.
“Now that my days are numbered and I have only memories, I think of all the things I didn’t do. I loved my family very much and was so proud of each of you but I didn’t tell you when I should have. Richard was our pride and joy, and now I don’t remember ever telling him how much I loved him. Now I wonder how I could have been so involved in the activities that had no lasting permanence and not more devoted to the things that last.”
Gramps, I want to tell you two things.
The first thing I want to tell you is that we know that you loved us. In particular, I know that you loved me. Despite what you remember, you actually told me quite often. Maybe you were different as a father, but as a grandfather you were one of the most expressive and emotional men I’ve ever met. You couldn’t say grace without crying halfway through. You laughed a lot. You worried about your family, probably too much – in fact, it was after watching you just this past December that I realized that I learned my nervous habit of picking my fingernails from you.
But most of all, you never let a visit go by without telling me that you loved me and that you were proud of me.
In the past week we have talked to quite a few people about you. Every one of them has told us how important you were. When they reminisce about you, they use words like “sweet,” “kind,” and “gentle.” You were both devoted and involved, and it has made a huge difference to the people that know you.
The second thing I want to tell you is that I know that you did not write the note simply to make yourself feel better. I know you weren’t looking for affirmation or reassurance. The note was written to us, not to yourself, and it would be missing the point to dismiss it by simply saying, “Don’t worry Gramps, we knew that you loved us.” You were trying to tell us something.
So I want to make sure you know that I have heard your message. But what I need now is some help in following it.
Gramps, you have taught me that real accomplishment is shared accomplishment. So in my dealings with my business associates, help me put integrity ahead of achievement and support ahead of success.
Gramps, you have taught me that the ties of family are tighter than the bounds of biology. So in my relationships with my relatives, help me place acceptance over agreement and reconciliation over retaliation.
Gramps, you have taught me that love is gentle. So in my marriage, teach me humility instead of hubris and compassion instead of competition. Help me to say what should be said rather than what could be said.
Gramps, you have taught me that time is precious. So in my parenting of my own children, help me practice patience. Help me overcome the tendency to train good children and instead help me raise fine men. Help me find ways to show love in action as well as in words.
Finally Gramps, you have taught me to enjoy and strive for a better life. So in my regarding of my own self and the world around me, teach me charity over criticism and courage over complacency. Help me enjoy each minute without regards to the number remaining. Help me see the beauty of life.
Lastly Gramps, I wanted to let you know that I’m sorry about the fish – I really thought they would live in the toilet. As for the fence post, I pretty much knew that would break when we hit it.
Say hello to Gram and Mom and Rich. I’ll miss you.
You are here with us every day, and we love you.