"Grandpa might not be with us for much longer. If you want to see him, possibly for the last time, you will want to come now."
Years ago, my mother said this to me with a voice filled with love and melancholy. We all know we won't live forever, but it's hard to remember to take advantage of the lessons only others can teach while they're still here. Each of us will have many teachers in life, but there are some things only grandparents can teach you:
1. Investing in your marriage pays off
My grandfather would often tell me that marrying grandma was the greatest achievement in his life and that every subsequent one was just a result of it.
The day my grandfather passed away, I walked through the doors of the retirement home and found the strongest man I'd ever known suddenly gaunt and fragile. Yet with his wife at his side he was still able to lean on her seemingly endless well of strength. Without a sound, he reinforced that lesson he continuously taught about the sacred bond of marriage.
2. God has to be pretty amazing
My grandparents taught me about lineage and God. My grandpa taught how paternity only gets better the further you go back in the genealogical-chain. Within four generations we can see this: sons can be prodigal, you can create both miracles and problems, your father is the firm hand that keeps you in line, but your grandfather is nothing but love, kindness and wisdom. Logically, if you keep going back to the highest patriarch, God would have to be beyond description.
3. Have both strength and meekness
On that fateful day, my grandpa was too frail to get up and almost too weak to extend his hand out for mine. However, when our hands clasped he squeezed with a firmness that defied his current state.
Grandparents teach us strength. They teach us that if there is something worth doing it's always worth doing well. They teach that meekness is just power under complete control and to always avoid causing anyone harm. These are lessons we all need to remember, long after our grandparents are gone.
4. You teach because you love and love because you teach
Here was a man who used to be so strong and would use his strength to love his family. Now, breathing was a difficult task.
Still, with each exhalation he strived to give me as much as he could. Our grandparents show us how much they care by giving us what they've gleaned over generations. The bond of love between grandparent and grandchild becomes one of the strongest many of us will have in life. They can help us learn valuable lessons, if we can listen as well as we can hear.
5. Heed advice
In his bed, he sat and told us with stories we'd all heard a hundred times before. Deep down I knew that this was the last time I'd hear them which just made them more poignant than ever.
Then suddenly, it was time to go. He had grown tired and my own children were restless. I gave him a hug goodbye. When I withdrew he looked me in the eye and said "You're a good man". The last words I heard my grandfather speak are also the words I must fight to live up to.
This last lesson our grandparents impart is bittersweet; they show us that life is precious. When lived the way they taught us, they benefit us with lessons that will last for generations to come.
Years have passed since my grandfather passed and still I reflect on the impression it left upon me. Our grandfathers and grandmothers should be treasured more than gold while they are still with us. When they are not, we should all strive to pass on their invaluable teachings to our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. By doing this, in a small way, we can repay their lives of hard work and love.