It is a quiet morning. July 4th, 2012. It's very early. And it has been a long month of hospital visits. Coffee is brewing on my kitchen counter, and Ethan and Isaac have zipped past me and are frantically putting on their flip flops at the back door. "Mom, when is the parade starting?" "Are they going to throw candy?" "Is everyone coming to our party?" I smirk and answer a blanket yes over their rapid questions. As I cut up watermelon and get plates and cups out to host our annual party and parade for friends and family, I start realizing this answer isn't completely true.
Everyone will not be joining us this year to celebrate.
My Boompa (my grandfather on my mom's side) had been one of the greatest parts of our 4th of July celebrations. He and my Grammy would arrive, get their cups of coffee and bagels and take a seat on the porch swing. It was the perfect vantage point for Boompa. He could "see the action" and take in all the laughter, all the children squealing with delight, and welcome friends and family as they made their way to say hello and chat a bit. Not to mention, hear the trains as they went by in the distance (they reminded him of his childhood, growing up in Cleveland). He always had a smile on his face on the 4th because that day embodied all of his favorite things: life, freedom, family, friends, and celebration.
|Boompa in his spot on our front porch, July 4th, 2010|
This year, Boompa was not at our house. He was not on the porch swing.
He was breathing some of his final breaths, in hospice care, surrounded by family and held by Grammy.
He was, and always will be, on our hearts.
|We reserved his spot with a family photo--with him at the head of the table|
That morning, after the parade had gone by, and the coffee and goodies had been shared...
We got a call that our beloved Boompa had gone from this world to the next...
made whole, made perfect, and made eternal.
Boompa was one of the most loving and listening people I knew. He encouraged me when I would bring Isaac over to visit. He would immediately sit up in his chair (even if he was hurting) and get genuinely excited when Isaac showed him his latest Hot Wheels car, or construction truck. "Oh, man! Look at that!" Whistling an impressed sound at Isaac and raising his eyebrows with enthusiasm. They would play together, and Boompa made all the car sounds. His eyes would light up and Isaac would show off a bit. My grandfather would look right at me and say, "Girl, you're doing a fantastic job...he is doing great!" My chest would swell up with pride. This man worked so hard to make sure his family knew he loved them...and he knew I did the same.
Boompa was a carpenter--he built amazing things with his hands. He was a craftsman, and a true appreciator of all things handmade. Balancing on railroad ties in the backyard, and walking into his "shop" (a big barn behind Grammy and Boompa's old house) transported me to when I was a little girl, when he would hug me and the smell of Old Spice and wood shavings mingled on his stylish clothes (he had style, that man.) I understood at a young age what it meant to work at something, to have patience. I grasped this invaluable concept of what really matters--family, God, doing what you love and what you've been made to do--because of his example. It was never about money--it was always about passion. (He could barely get through a family prayer before a meal without breaking down in tears--he had one of the most tender hearts.)
He and I shared the same personality--I enjoyed being with others, but found great fulfillment in being introspective with my thoughts. I remember when we would go on family vacations to the beach, Boompa would get up at dawn and sit on the porch with a pot of coffee, whittling a figure or working on a piece of his model ships he made from scratch. If you chose to sit with him, you'd be sitting in silence. Boompa would take long walks by himself, coming back an hour later, having explored some untouched place where tourists didn't go. We never asked him what he did on those walks, and other than horrendous sunburn and maybe a few unique shells, he didn't reveal to us either. I can imagine he would think about his life--his Russian parents and the 7 siblings he grew up with...maybe ponder the time he spent in the Navy out on an aircraft carrier during WWII...reflect on that night in a jail cell years ago after a bar fight where he gave his heart and life to Jesus and forever changed the way he lived...
|Isaac and Boomps, Father's Day, 2011|
|Ethan and Boomps, Father's Day, 2011|
From now on, the 4th of July will be so much more meaningful to me. It will forever be a day that I will remember true freedom, true love, and true joy.